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The approaching centenary of the death of Robert 
Emmet offers sufficient reason for the production 
of a new biography of one who fills so large a 
place in the memories of the Irish people. What 
seemed to be most required was a brief and direct 
account of his life rather than a book overloaded 
with unnecessary detail, and made prosy by inter- 
minable moralising as in the case of Madden's 
biography ; one keeping rather to the strictly 
ascertained facts or to those which seem to be 
borne out by sufficient evidence to justify their 
inclusion, than an attempt to form glowing periods 
with no special reference to the admitted data of 
Emmet's life. The actual history of Emmet's 
attempt to accomplish a revolution has been 
somewhat obliterated by rhapsodical accounts of 
his career, and not a few readers have gathered 
from them an altogether erroneous impression of 
the real qualities of a romantic but hardly great 
leader. It would be absurd to pretend that 
Emmet had the genius of Wolfe Tone. His aims 




were perhaps purer, and he had a great capacity 
for inspiring affection among those who knew him, 
but he had little of the faculty of getting himself 
obeyed. His impulsiveness and generosity, and 
implicit belief in the motives of other men, were 
admirable traits in themselves, but they practically 
unfitted him for the role of the deliverer of a nation. 
At any rate, that is the point of view of this book. 
His picturesque and winning figure will always 
remain in the Irish heart, but it is essential to 
remember also his limitations. One may recognise 
fully the nobleness of his aims, and point with 
admiration to his aspirations, without thereby 
adopting the idea that he was capable of effecting 
a revolution in Ireland. 

I have said, or at least implied, that Madden's 
biography of Emmet is heavy reading. Those 
who have attempted to get through it will bear 
me out in this implication. It is also frequently 
inaccurate, but that of course is not unnatural con- 
sidering the difficult task he had to do. It is only 
just to say that to his labours we are largely 
indebted for the accumulation of material which 
exists upon the period of 1798- 1803. 

He was the pioneer, and his work is, like all 
pioneer work, rudely done. Some of his inaccura- 
cies, however, were easily avoidable. A statement 



of his has led to a serious error in the first chapter 
of this work. When writing it, I had not access to 
the Dublin Directories of the period of Emmet's 
birth, and therefore accepted Madden's declaration 
that Dr. Emmet removed to Stephen's Green after 
Robert's birth, and the consequent error that the 
latter was born in Molesworth Street, Dublin. 
Later opportunity, however, proved that the 
younger Emmet must have been born in the house 
in Stephen's Green, his father having unquestion- 
ably removed there prior to the year 1778. This 
important correction was not discovered until after 
the first chapter of the present work had been 
printed off.* 

All writers seem to have accepted, in so simple 
a matter, the statement of Madden, and even Dr. 
Thomas Addis Emmet, in his massive " Memoirs 
of the Emmet Family," did not discover the 

It is perhaps, necessary to say that the authori- 
ties chiefly consulted for the purposes of this work, 
have been, apart from the obvious Madden and 
other writers on the Irish side, Lecky's " History 

* Since the above was written I observe that a writer (Mr. D. A. 
Quaid) has dealt with the subject very ably and exhaustively in the 
United Irishman, and has completely proved that Emmet was born 
in Stephen's Green. 


of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century," the " Castle- 
reagh Correspondence," and the " Cornwallis Cor- 
respondence," and a good deal of the pamphlet 
literature of the time — all, indeed, which seemed 
likely to throw any light on the subject, or helped 
to corroborate Madden and others in any detail. 
Dr. Emmet's work, already mentioned, was, of 
course, carefully consulted, and as it is an almost 
unknown book (only one hundred copies having 
been printed privately, for family purposes, and 
only two or three of these having found their way 
into Ireland), it is believed that this is the first 
time it has been utilized in any publication. All 
that can be claimed for the present little book is 
that it has placed on record all that is definitely 
known of Robert Emmet, and that it is an im- 
partial account of one whose career and character 
have appealed more strongly to the Irish people in 
general than any figure in Irish history since 
Owen Roe and Sarsfield. 

d. j. cm 




Previous Works on Emmet. — Origin of the Emmet Family. — 
The Irish Emmets. — Dr. Robert Emmet.— His Family. — 
Birth of Robert Emmet. — His Early Years. — In Trinity 
College. — Moore's Recollections. — The College Historical 
Society. ....... t 


The United Irishmen.— Robert Emmet adopts their Principles. 
—The Visitation in Trinity College.— Dr. Whitley Stokes.— 
Emmet withdraws from the College.— His Patriotic Feelings. 1 7 


State of Ireland at this time. — Irish Negotiations with France. 
Project of an Union between England and Ireland. — 
Measures to foment a Rebellion. — Sir Ralph Abercromby. 
— Excesses of the English Troops. — Resignation of Aber- 
cromby. — Spread of the Revolutionary Idea. — Growth of 
Orangeism.— Arrest of Oliver Bond, M'Nevin, etc.— 
Military Despotism. . . . . .24 


The Insurrection Bursts. — Attempts to create Religious 
Divisions. — Distrust of France. — Defeat of the Northern 
Insurgents. — Battle of New Ross. — The Rebellion crushed. 
— Removal of United Irish Prisoners to Fort George. — 
Their Compact with the Government misrepresented. — 
The American Ambassador attempts to prevent United 



Irishmen from going to America. — Robert Emmet makes 
the Acquaintance of the Currans. — Arrival of Cornwallis. 
— His Admissions. — Landing of the French. — Their 
Surrender. . . . . . . .36 


Losses in the Rebellion. — The Union again mooted. — Catholic 
Prelates support it. — Bribery resorted to. — The Government 
Defeated. — Debates and Demonstrations. — Corruption Ex- 
traordinary. — The Union finally carried. . . • 47 


Emmet on the Continent. — His Letters to Madame de Fontenay. 
— Thinks of going to America. — Emmet in Paris. — In- 
terviews Bonaparte. — Unfavourably impressed. — Emmet 
ignorant of the Plans for a New Insurrection. — Arthur 
O'Connor on the Emmets. — His Prejudices. — Watty Cox's 
View of Emmet. . . . . . . 54 


Emmet in Belgium. — His return to Dublin. — Emmet and 
Keogh. — John Philpot Curran. — Evidence that Emmet 
was entrapped into a New Conspiracy. — Sir Bernard 
Burke's Extraordinary Disclosures. — Plot concocted by Pitt. 
— Madden's independent Corroboration. — Supineness of 
the Government consistent with their knowledge of an 
intended Rebellion. — G rattan's belief that the 1803 
Rebellion was engineered by the Government. . . 67 


Recollections of David Fitzgerald. — Emmet and Philip Long. 
— Financial Support by the latter. — Death of Dr. Emmet. 
— His House Searched. — Robert Emmet's Character. — 
His Personal Appearance. — Emmet in Concealment. — 
James Hope's Recollections of Emmet. — Preparations for 
the Outbreak. — Emmet's Plans. — Premature Explosion. . 78 





Emmet's Scheme of Operations. — Disposition of the Insurgents. 
— Points of Attack and Defence. — Some of the Reasons 
which caused Failure of plans. — Barney Duggan's account 
of the Preparations. — The Explosion in Patrick Street. — 
Emmet's constant Supervision of Affairs. . . .92 


Government Account of the Patrick Street Affair. — Inactivity 
of the Authorities. — Some of them clearly cognisant of 
the Preparations of the Insurgents. — Secretary Marsden's 
Explanations. — Signs of the approaching Outbreak. — 
Marsden's account of Emmet's Plans. — His chief 
Associates, Russell and Quigley. . . .105 


Emmet decides upon Action. — Kildare and Wicklow fail. — 
Various Checks. — The proposed Attack upon the Castle. — 
Seizure of the Privy Council contemplated. — Philip Long 
again supplies Funds. — Premature Alarm. — Beginning of 
the Outbreak. — Murder of Lord Kilwarden. — Breakdown 
of the Plans. — Dispersal of the Insurgents. . . .121 


Emmet's Account of the Failure. — Unfortunate Accidents. — 
His amazing Trustfulness. — Anne Devlin's Recollections. 
— Emmet's Escape. — Search of his House.— Brutal Treat- 
ment of Anne Devlin by the Soldiers. — Her Heroic Firm- 
ness. — Her Imprisonment. — Her Death. — Emmet refuses 
to leave Ireland. ...... 134 


Emmet and Sarah Curran. — His Letters to her seized by Major 
Sirr. — J. P. Curran 's Brutal Treatment of his Daughter. — 
Emmet's Letters to him and Richard Curran. — Emmet 
returns to Harold's Cross. — His Arrest. — Plan of Escape 
from Prison. — St. John Mason's Account. — Treachery of 
Officials. — Emmet's Strange Letter to the Chief Secretary. 145 





Emmet brought into Court. — His Counsel. — Plunket's bitter- 
ness towards him. — His Trial. — O'Grady's Opening State- 
ment. — Evidence of Witnesses. — No Evidence for the 
Defence. — Plunket's rancorous Speech. — Sentence. — 
Emmet's Speech. — His Repudiation of the Motives 
attributed to him. — Scene in Court. . . .158 


Emmet in Kilmainham. — Death of his Mother. — His Last 
Hours. — His Execution. — His Demeanour.— Place of 
Burial. — Conflicting Opinions. — Debate in Parliament on 
the 1803 Affair. — Fate of Sarah Curran. — Conclusion. , 177 





Perhaps no period of Irish history is more 
familiar to the general reader than that in which 
Robert Emmet is the central figure. This is 
partly due, no doubt, to the romantic love-episode 
which, as it were, runs through it, and which 
Thomas Moore in exquisite verse, and Washington 
Irving in pathetic prose, have carried over the 
greater part of the world. Yet while Emmet's 
name and last words are everywhere known, sur- 
prisingly few people are well acquainted with the 
story of his brief career. It cannot be argued that 
he really occupies an important place even in Irish 
history, but his life offers much that is interesting 
and instructive to the Irish reader, apart from its 
value as a story. The shortness of his life, his ill- 
fated attachment for Sarah Curran, and, above all, 
his immortal speech, have won for him a place in 
the world and among people who probably have 




no sympathy with his principles. Quite a litera- 
ture has gathered about him, chiefly in newspapers 
and magazines, and many isolated chapters have 
been written concerning his abortive insurrection ; 
but the necessity for a biography grows greater 
and greater. With the exception of the work 
by Dr. Madden, the short sketch by the Countess 
D'Haussonville, and a couple of pamphlets, which 
are practically unprocurable, no serious book 
has appeared on the subject. Madden's work 
is so chaotic in arrangement, and so full of 
repetitions, that probably few readers would care 
to tackle it. The English version of Madame 
D'Haussonville's work has been long out of print. 
In any case it is only a sketch founded on 
Madden's work. One other work, used by Mad- 
den, may be mentioned here, though it is of little 
use to the students of the period. " Robert 
Emmet and his Contemporaries" originally ap- 
peared anonymously in the Dublin and London 
Magazine in the twenties, and conjecture was busy 
for years with the authorship. All the surmises 
were wrong, however, and it was not till 1870 that 
its author, then a very old man, published a modi- 
fied version of the papers in book form, and signed 
the work with his initials. Michael James Whitty, 
a Wexford man, who wrote the book in question, 
acknowledged that it was purely fanciful, and 
the reported conversations with Robert Emmet 
quite imaginary. Madden, however, accepted 
some of the statements as genuine, and other 



writers have also been misled. Though, however, 
the book is of no value as history, it is interesting, 
and there is much sane and thoughtful writing 
in it, showing an excellent acquaintance with 
Emmet's time and a thorough appreciation of 
Emmet's position and ideas. Perhaps the best 
account of Emmet's life yet published is that 
contained in Dr. T. A. Emmet's massive and 
sumptuous "Memoirs of the Emmet Family," 
which has been largely made use of in the present 
work. It is the most authoritative account of the 
Emmets, and though mainly devoted to Thomas 
Addis Emmet and other members of the family, 
the latest information about Robert Emmet is also 
placed on record. These are the principal authori- 
ties for the facts of Emmet's career; but for an 
account of the eventful years from 1790 to 1803, 
which must be dealt with in any book about 
Emmet, there are other sources which have been 
indicated in the preface. It will be well to begin 
with the early years of Emmet, and to interrupt 
the narrative when necessary in order to tell the 
story of those movements with which Emmet was 
connected, or which explain the chief events of his 

The name of Emmet, in one or other of its 
numerous forms,* is English, and has existed in 
England for several hundred years at least. One 
of the name was a Doctor of Music of Oxford in 

* Dr. Emmet, father of Robert, changed the form of his name at 
least four times. 



the reign of Henry II.; and Burke's "Landed 
Gentry" traces members of the family back to the 
days of William the Conqueror as landholders in 
Lancashire. A family tradition indicates that the 
first settlers of the name in Ireland came over from 
Kent with Cromwell, but Dr. Emmet has shown 
that there were people of the name in Waterford, 
Limerick, Kildare, and Tipperary prior to the 
advent of the Puritan marauders. Robert Emmet 
belonged to the latter branch of the family. His 
grandfather, Christopher, a surgeon and physician, 
held leases of the fairs and markets of the town of 
Tipperary, or, in other words, collected the tolls or 
customs. He was born in 1700, and his wife was 
Rebecca Temple, daughter of Thomas Temple, 
and connected with the Palmerston family. She 
was born about the same year, and died in 
November, 1774, at her son's residence in Moles- 
worth Street, her remains being buried in St. 
Anne's Church, Dawson Street. She had two 
sons, one, Thomas, who died in or about 1754, and 
the other, Robert, who became a doctor of medi- 
cine, and was the father of the gifted Christopher 
Temple Emmet, Thomas Addis Emmet, and 
Robert Emmet, the subject of this biography. 

Dr. Emmet was born in Tipperary in 1729, and 
seems to have spent his early life in the south, 
eventually settling in Dublin. He married, in 
November, 1760, Elizabeth, daughter of James 
Mason of Ballydowney, Co. Kerry, and by her 
had seventeen children, of whom the youngest was 


Robert, born in 1778. There had been three 
other children of the same name previous to the 
date mentioned, but each had died shortly after 
birth. The name of Emmet has apparently 
long died out in Ireland, and Madden quotes a 
letter from Thomas Addis Emmet, sent from 
America in 1806 to Peter Burrowes, in which the 
following passage occurs: "There is not now in 
Ireland an individual that bears the name of 
Emmet. I do not wish that there ever should 
while it is connected with England, and yet it 
will perhaps be remembered in its history." In 
another letter to his daughter he expressed the 
hope that "no one of the name would ever put 
foot on the soil of Ireland while she remained 
under British rule." 

Dr. Emmet's marriage with Elizabeth Mason 
brought a large infusion of Irish blood into the 
family, as she was connected with the Powers, 
O'Haras, M'Laughlins, and other Irish people. 
The marriage took place in Cork, and Dr. Emmet 
(who had received the degree of doctor of medi- 
cine from the University of Montpelier, in France, 
about 1750) had already begun to practise as a 
physician in that city. He appears to have 
removed to Dublin in the year 1770, acting on the 
advice of his kinsman, Earl Temple, Viceroy of 
Ireland, who appointed him State Physician, which 
distinction first appears after his name in the 
"Dublin Directory" of 1771. Most of his child- 
ren died very young ; his eldest son, Christopher 



Temple Emmet, who was born in Cork in 1761, 
only surviving long enough to show that, had he 
lived longer, he would have risen to the very highest 
position in his profession. As it was, the estimate 
formed of him by his contemporaries was remark- 
ably high, and seems almost exaggerated. He 
was only twenty-seven years of age when he died, 
yet in the " Life of Grattan " we find him referred 
to in these terms: "Temple Emmet, before he 
came to the Bar, knew more law than any of the 
judges on the Bench ; and if he had been placed 
on one side and the whole Bench opposed to him, 
he could have been examined against them, and 
would have surpassed them all; he would have 
answered better both in law and divinity than any 
judge or bishop in the land." He had shown, too, 
a decided poetical turn, and left a few clever 
effusions in verse. 

Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, the second son, was 
born in Dublin, on April 24th, 1764, graduated at 
Trinity College, Dublin, and obtained a degree in 
medicine with high honours at Edinburgh, in 1784. 
While in Edinburgh he was on terms of friendship 
with some of the most notable young men in the 
city, including the afterwards celebrated Dugald 
Stewart, Sir James Mackintosh, and others. On 
leaving Edinburgh he went to London, and became 
resident physician at Guy's Hospital. After a 
visit to the Continent he returned to Dublin, 
where he practised as a physician in conjunction 
with his father. His subsequent career is very 



largely concerned with the history of Ireland at 
that period, and will be referred to in further 

Of the numerous family of Dr. Robert Emmet, 
only five were daughters. Mary Anne Emmet, 
the only one who reached maturity, was a woman 
of considerable intellect, and wrote some vigorous 
pamphlets on questions of the day. She shared 
the political views of her brothers, Thomas and 
Robert, and voiced them in no uncertain way. 
She married the celebrated orator and lawyer, 
Robert Holmes, and died in 1804, aged thirty-one. 

The youngest of the family was Robert, whose 
career forms the subject of this work. He was 
born at the house in Molesworth Street, on March 
4th, 1778. He was first sent to Mr. Oswald's 
school, in Dopping's Court, off Golden Lane, an 
institution rather notable at this period for its 
mathematical teaching. After some time he was 
transferred to the then famous school of Samuel 
Whyte in Grafton Street, where Sheridan, Moore, 
and many other celebrated Irishmen received some 
of their early education. His last school was that 
of the Rev. Mr. Lewis' in Camden Street. On 
October 7th, 1793, when fifteen years of age, he 
entered Trinity College, his tutor being the Rev. 
Mr. Graves. His college career was exceptionally 
successful, rivalling that of his brothers. His 
special aptitude was for the exact sciences and 
mathematics, chemistry being perhaps the study in 
which he was most proficient. An incident is 



recorded by Dr. Madden which proves his devotion 
to scientific pursuits. He frequently made chemi- 
cal experiments on a small scale at his father's 
house in Stephen's Green (the doctor having re- 
moved there in 1779, one year after Robert's 
birth), and on one occasion had a narrow escape 
from poisoning. His relative, Mr. John Patten, 
who was a guest in the house for some weeks, used 
to assist him in some of his experiments, and one 
night after Mr. Patten had retired to rest, Emmet 
devoted himself to the solution of a very difficult 
problem in Friend's " Algebra." In his abstrac- 
tion he indulged in a constant habit he had formed 
of biting his nails, and this nearly led to serious 
results. He had been using corrosive sublimate 
that evening, and was soon seized with violent 
pains. Some of the poison having remained on 
his fingers, he had inadvertently administered to 
himself a dangerous dose. He very carefully 
refrained from arousing his father, though quite 
conscious that he was in some peril, and taking 
down from the shelves of the library a work which 
had an article on poisons, he found that chalk was 
recommended as a prophylactic in such a case as 
his. Remembering that Mr. Patten had been 
using chalk that day, he proceeded to the coach- 
house where it had been left, and used it, after 
which he sat down and succeeded, before retiring 
to rest, in solving the mathematical problem which 
had occupied his mind earlier in the night. In 
the morning his face looked, in the language of 



Madden's informant, "as small and as yellow as 
an orange," and he acknowledged that he had 
suffered acutely during the night, but had finished 
the task which he had set himself to do. 

While in Trinity College, Emmet enjoyed a 
considerable reputation as a speaker, and the 
tribute of his contemporaries is unanimous as to 
the remarkable promise he showed in the debating 
societies to which he belonged. Madden says : " I 
have conversed with many persons who had heard 
him speak in those societies, some of them of very 
decided Tory politics, and I never heard but one 
opinion expressed of the transcendent oratorical 
powers he displayed there." Madden quotes Dr. 
Macartney, Rector of Antrim, who was present at 
a debate of the Historical Society arranged ex- 
pressly for the debut of Emmet. The subject was : 
" Is a complete freedom of discussion essential to 
the well-being of a good and virtuous government ?" 
All allusions to modern politics were forbidden ; 
but Emmet, while ostensibly confining himself to 
the despotism of ancient governments, cleverly 
argued that it was imperative upon all govern- 
ments to allow full and free discussion; and, if 
they did not, it was for the people " to draw prac- 
tical conclusions " from their tyranny, and to act 
upon their resolves. 

His early friend, Thomas Moore, has given, in 
his " Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald," 
a valuable glimpse of Emmet's manner and method 
of oratory, which it is impossible not to quote: 


" Were I to number," he says, " the men among 
all I have ever known, who appeared to me to 
combine in the greatest degree pure moral worth 
with intellectual power, I should, among the high- 
est of the few, place Robert Emmet. Wholly free 
from the follies and frailties of youth — though how 
capable he was of the most devoted passion events 
afterwards proved—the pursuit of science, in which 
he eminently distinguished himself, seemed at this 
time the only object that at all divided his thoughts 
with that enthusiasm for Irish freedom which, in 
him, was a hereditary as well as national feeling — 
himself being the second martyr his father had 
given to the cause. Simple in all his habits, and 
with a repose of look and manner indicating but 
little movement within, it was only when the spring 
was touched that set his feelings, and, through 
them, his intellect, in motion, that he at all rose 
above the level of ordinary men. On no occasion 
was this more particularly striking than in those 
displays of oratory with which, both in the Debating 
and Historical Society, he so often enchained the 
attention and sympathy of his young audience. 
No two individuals, indeed, could be much more 
unlike to each other than was the same youth to 
himself before rising to speak and after : the brow 
that had appeared inanimate, and almost drooping, 
at once elevating itself to all the consciousness of 
power, and the whole countenance and figure of 
the speaker assuming a change as of one suddenly 
inspired. Of his oratory, it must be recollected, 


I I 

I speak from youthful impressions ; but I have 
heard little since that appeared to me of a loftier, 
or, which is a far more rare quality in Irish elo- 
quence, purer character — and the effects it pro- 
duced, as well from its own exciting power as from 
the susceptibility with which his audience caught 
up every allusion to passing events, was such as 
to attract at last the serious attention of the 
Fellows ; and, by their desire, one of the Scholars, 
a man of advanced standing and reputation for 
oratory, came to attend our debates, expressly 
for the purpose of answering Emmet, and en- 
deavouring to neutralise 1 the impressions of his 
fervid eloquence.' " 

Another early associate of Emmet corroborates 
Moore in his estimate of the young patriot's gifts, 
namely, the Rev. Archibald Douglas, nephew of 
Sir Edward Crosbie, who was tried and executed 
as a rebel in 1798. Writing to Dr. Madden, in 
1842, he says: " With Robert Emmet I was most 
intimate before he entered college, and after. 
Indeed, in his young days, he almost lived in our 
house. So gifted a creature does not appear in 
a thousand years. The whole family were dis- 
tinguished for talent of the highest order." These 
tributes are valuable, inasmuch as they dissipate a 
general impression that Emmet was intellectually 
of little account. 

Moore's general recollections of Emmet in col- 
lege, as given in his "Memoirs/' are extremely 
interesting, and are worth giving in full : 



" The political ferment that was abroad through 
Ireland soon found its way within the walls of our 
university, and a youth destined to act a melan- 
choly, but for ever memorable, part in the troubled 
scenes that were fast approaching, had now begun 
to attract, in no ordinary degree, the attention 
both of his fellow-students and the college authori- 
ties in general. This youth was Robert Emmet, 
whose brilliant success in his college studies, and, 
more particularly, in the scientific portion of them, 
had crowned his career, as far as he had gone, 
with all the honours of the course; while his 
powers of oratory displayed at a debating society, 
of which, about this time (1796-7) I became a 
member, were beginning to excite universal atten- 
tion, as well from the eloquence as the political 
boldness of his displays. He was, I rather think 
by two classes, my senior, though it might have 
been only by one. But there was, at all events, 
such an interval between our standings as, at that 
time of life, makes a material difference ; and 
when I became a member of the debating society, 
I found him in full fame, not only for his scientific 
attainments, but also for the blamelessness of his 
life and the grave suavity of his manners. Besides 
this minor society, there was also another in 
college, for the higher students, called the His- 
torical Society, established on the ruins of one 
bearing the same name, which had some years 
before been (on account of its politics, I believe,) 
put down by the Fellows, but continued, in de- 



fiance of them, to hold its sittings outside the 
walls. Of this latter association, Charles Bushe, 
the present witty Chief Justice, was, if I am not 
mistaken, one of the most turbulent as well as 
most eloquent members. 

"Of the political tone of our small debating 
society, which was held at the rooms of different 
resident members, some notion may be formed 
from the nature of the questions proposed for dis- 
cussion, one of which was, I recollect, 1 Whether 
an aristocracy or democracy was most favourable 
to the advancement of science and literature;' 
while another, still more critically bearing upon 
the awful position of politics at this crisis, was 
thus significantly put: ' Whether a soldier was 
bound on all occasions to obey his commanding 
officer?' On the former of these questions, the 
power of Emmet's eloquence was wonderful ; and 
I feel at this moment as if his language was still 
sounding in my ears. The prohibition against 
touching upon modern politics, which it was found 
afterwards necessary to enforce, had not yet been 
introduced ; and Emmet, who took, of course, 
ardently the side of democracy in the debate, after 
a brief review of the great republics of antiquity, 
showing how much they had all done for the 
advancement of literature and the arts, hastened, 
lastly, to the grand and perilous example of the 
young republic of France ; and, referring to the 
story of Caesar carrying with him across the river 
only his sword and his Commentaries, he said : 


4 Thus France at this time swims through a sea of 
blood ; but while in one hand she wields the sword 
against her aggressors, with the other she upholds 
the interests of literature, uncontaminated by the 
bloody tide through which she struggles.' On the 
other question, as to the obligation of a soldier 
to obey, on all occasions, the orders of his com- 
manding officer, Emmet, after refuting this notion 
as degrading to human nature, imagined the case 
of a soldier who, having thus blindly fought in the 
ranks of the aggressor, had fallen in the combat ; 
and then most powerfully described him as rushing, 
after death, into the presence of his Creator, and 
exclaiming, in an agony of remorse, while he holds 
forth his sword, reeking still with the blood of the 
oppressed and innocent : i O God, I know not why 
I have done this !' In another of his speeches I 
remember his saying : * When a people, advancing 
rapidly in civilization and the knowledge of their 
rights, look back after a long lapse of time and 
perceive how far the spirit of their government has 
lagged behind them, what then, I ask, is to be 
done by them in such a case ? What, but to pull 
the government up to the people V 

. . . It must have been about the begin- 
ning of the year 1797 that our little society came 
to a natural dissolution, most of the members 
having dropped off or become absorbed in the 
larger institutions ; so that, at last, there not being 
left a sufficient number to support the society by 
their subscriptions, those who remained resolved 



to divide among them the small library which had 
been collected (chiefly through gifts from different 
members) and to declare their meetings at an 

"In the course of this year, though I cannot 
exactly say at what period of it, I was admitted a 
member of the Historical Society of the University, 
and here, as everywhere else, the political spirit so 
rife abroad continued to mix with all our debates 
and proceedings, notwithstanding the constant 
watchfulness of the College authorities, and of a 
strong party within the society itself, which ad- 
hered devotedly to the politics of the government, 
and took part invariably with the Provost and 
Fellows in all their restrictive and inquisitorial 
measures. ... Of the popular side in the society, 
the chief champion and ornament was Robert 
Emmet; and though every care was taken to 
exclude from among the subjects of debate all 
questions likely to trench upon the politics of the 
day, it was always easy enough, by a side-wind of 
digression or allusion, to bring Ireland and the 
prospects then opening upon her within the scope 
of the orator's view. So exciting and powerful in 
this respect were the speeches of Emmet, and so 
little were the most distinguished speakers among 
the opponents able to cope with his eloquence, 
that the Board at length actually thought it right 
to send among us a man of advanced standing in 
the University, and belonging to a former race of 
good speakers in the society, in order that he 


might answer the speeches of Emmet, and en- 
deavour to obviate what they considered the 
mischievous impressions produced by them. The 
name of this mature champion of the higher 
powers was, if I remember right, Geraghty ; and it 
was in replying to a speech of his one night, that 
Emmet, to the no small mortification and surprise 
of us who gloried in him as our leader, became 
embarrassed in the middle of his speech, and, 
to use the parliamentary phrase, 'broke down.' 
Whether from a momentary confusion in the thread 
of his argument, or possibly from diffidence in 
encountering an adversary so much his senior (for 
Emmet was as modest as he was high-minded and 
brave), he began, in the full career of his eloquence, 
to hesitate and repeat his words, and then, after an 
effort or two to recover himself, sat down/' 




It must have been early in 1798 that Emmet 
adopted the principles of the United Irishmen. 
He had for years avowed the most ardent national 
feelings, and it is perfectly certain that he was 
encouraged by his father in his views, not- 
withstanding the general impression that the 
elder Emmet was not a Nationalist. In the 
" Memoirs of the Emmet Family," it is stated that 
the doctor became a republican through the in- 
fluence of his kinsman, Robert Temple, who had 
been connected with the American Revolution. 
There can be no question that his political views 
underwent some change, for he would hardly have 
received the appointment of State Physician and 
other official positions which he held (valued at 
about two thousand pounds per annum), unless he 
was believed to be a loyalist. The "Memoirs" 
already quoted state that when he changed his 
opinions, he immediately gave up his government 
appointments, and "in time fully indoctrinated his 
two sons, Thomas Addis and Robert, with his 
principles." In 1783, he resigned his post in St. 
Patrick's Hospital. In 1798, he relinquished his 
practice altogether. 



Thomas Addis Emmet was an United Irishman 
from an early period of the existence of that 
organization, but it does not appear that Robert 
Emmet was ever a sworn member. However, he 
definitely adopted its principles in the spring of 
1798, and in April of that year was one of those 
amongst the students of Trinity College who were 
charged with being concerned in the dissemination 
of treasonable doctrines. Late in 1797, the Senior 
Fellows of the College had held a court of inquiry 
into the matter, which resulted in the expulsion of 
two of the students, but it was in April, 1798, that 
the famous visitation, so graphically described by 
Moore in his " Memoirs," and by Walsh in " Ire- 
land Sixty Years Ago," took place. The Earl of 
Clare, Lord Chancellor, presided over the pro- 
ceedings, which led to the expulsion of nineteen 
scholars, students, and sizara Emmet was one of 
those who received the summons from the Board, 
requesting him to furnish the authorities with the 
names of any fellow-students who were suspected 
of being United Irishmen. Emmet immediately re- 
plied in a letter, which he showed to his father, who 
thoroughly approved of it, denouncing the attempt 
to turn the students into informers, declining to 
give any information, and declaring that he wished 
his name removed from the books of the College. 
Emmet, therefore, it will be seen, anticipated the 
possible decision of the Board, though his name, it 
is said, appeared among those expelled for the 
crime of denouncing English misrule. A letter had 



recently appeared in the Press, the organ of the 
United Irishmen, addressed "To the Students of 
the University," and signed, "A Sophister," which 
was severely animadverted upon by the Lord Chan- 
cellor. It was supposed to have been an incitement 
to assassination, but it was certainly guiltless of any 
such tendency, though there are some ambiguous 
allusions in it. It was not known then, or till 
long afterwards, that it was written by Thomas 
Moore, who alludes to it in a passage to be quoted 
further on. Among the Fellows examined at the 
visitation, was Dr. Whitley Stokes,* who was 
known to hold very strong Irish views, and who 
had been really a member of the United Irishmen 
in the earlier phases of that organization. The 
most interesting episode of the whole inquiry 
occurred on Dr. Stokes* reply to the question as to 
whether he knew of any secret or illegal societies 
in College. The episode in question has been so 
well described by the author of " Ireland Sixty 
Years Ago," who was present, that his account 
may well be utilized here : 

"The Vice-Chancellor, eyeing him with a stern 
countenance, and with the confidence of a person 
who knew his man, asked him in an emphatic 
manner if he knew if United Irish Societies 
existed in College. Stokes answered decidedly, 
4 No.' The Vice-Chancellor looked much amazed 
by the unexpected repulse, and a slight murmur of 

* Seveial of his descendants have given convincing proof of their 
interest in Ireland and her history, art, and literature. 



applause ran through the hall. The paper* was 
held out to Stokes, and, in a similar manner, he 
was asked if he knew anything of the authorship 
of it; and in a similar tone, to the surprise of all 
(except myself), he denied all knowledge of it or 
its authors. The exceeding candour of Stokes, 
and his known love of truth, induced all to believe 
that he would at once declare whatever he knew, 
when asked, and many thought he knew much. 
He was then asked if he knew anything of secret 
or illegal societies in College. He answered 
promptly and without hesitation that he did. He 
was then called on to explain and declare what 
they were. 

" ' The only societies of that description which I 
am aware of,' said he, ' are Orange societies, and I 
know some members of them.' 

" If the Chancellor had been struck a violent 
blow he could not have shown more surprise and 

Stokes acknowledged that he had been an 
United Irishman and had subscribed to the funds 
of the Society. In the result he was suspended 
from his Fellowship for three years. 

Moore has supplemented this description by 
other details, but they chiefly concern himself, and 
are therefore not of special interest here. Emmet 
was at this time only twenty years of age, and yet 
had succeeded in greatly influencing not only 

* A series of strong resolutions drawn up by Walsh, author of 
"Ireland Sixty Years Ago." 



some of those who were his juniors, but also others 
of much more mature age than himself. Not a 
few of his early friends and associates in the 
University afterwards figured in the stormy times 
that were to follow in a manner highly creditable 
to their nationality; one or two others were found 
among his bitterest pursuers at the end. 

Charles Phillips, who was well acquainted with 
many of Emmet's friends, has, in his " Recollec- 
tions of Curran," placed on record what might be 
termed their impressions of Emmet in College and 
after he left it. 

"He was but just twenty-three, had graduated 
in Trinity College, and was gifted with abilities 
and virtues which rendered him an object of uni- 
versal esteem and admiration. Every one loved — 
every one respected him ; his fate made an im- 
, pression on the University which has not yet* 
been obliterated. His mind was naturally melan- 
choly and romantic, he had fed it from the pure 
fountain of classic literature, and might be said to 
have lived not so much in the scene around him 
as in the society of the illustrious and sainted dead. 

"The poets of antiquity were his companions, its 
patriots his models, and its republics his admira- 
tion. He had but just entered upon the world, 
full of the ardour which such studies might be 
supposed to have excited, and unhappily at a 
period in the history of his country when such 
noble feelings were not only detrimental, but 

* 1818. 



dangerous. It is but an ungenerous loyalty which 
would not weep over the extinction of such a 
spirit. The irritation of the Union had but just 
subsided. The debates upon that occasion he had 
drunk in with devotion, and doctrines were then 
promulgated by some of the ephemeral patriots 
of the day well calculated to inflame minds less 
ardent than Robert Emmets. Let it not be for- 
gotten by those who affect to despise his memory 
that men matured by experience, deeply read in 
the laws of their country, and venerated as the 
high priests of the Constitution, had but two years 
before, vehemently, eloquently, and earnestly, in 
the very temple itself, proclaimed resistance to be 
a duty." 

Moore, continuing the account of his intimacy 
with Emmet, and referring to the publication of 
his letter in The Press, says : 

"A few days after the publication, in the course 
of one of those strolls into the country which 
Emmet and I used often to take together, our 
conversation turned upon this letter, and I gave 
him to understand it was mine ; when, with that 
almost feminine gentleness of manner which he 
possessed, and which is so often found in deter- 
mined spirits, he owned to me that on reading this 
letter, though pleased with its contents, he could 
not help regretting that the public attention had 
been thus drawn to the politics of the University, 
as it might have the effect of awakening the vigi- 
lance of the College authorities, and frustrate the 



progress of the good work (as we both considered 
it) which was going on there so quietly. Even 
then, boyish as my own mind was, I could not 
help being struck with the manliness of the view 
which I saw he took of what men ought to do in 
such times and circumstances, namely, not to talk 
or write about their intentions, but to act. He 
had never before, I think, in conversation with 
me, alluded to the existence of the United Irish 
societies in College ; nor did he now, or at any 
subsequent time, make any proposition to me to 
join in them, a forbearance which I attribute a 
good deal to his knowledge of the anxiety about 
me which prevailed at home and his foreseeing 
the difficulty I should experience — from being, as 
the phrase is, constantly ' tied to my mother's 
apron strings' — in attending the meetings of the 
society without being discovered. 

" He was altogether a noble fellow, and as full 
of imagination and tenderness of heart as of 
manly daring. He used frequently to sit by me 
at the pianoforte while I played over the airs from 
Bunting's Irish Collection ; and I remember one 
day, when we were thus employed, his starting 
up, as if from a reverie, while I was playing the 
spirited air, * Let Erin Remember the Days of 
Old,' and exclaiming passionately, ' Oh ! that I 
were at the head of twenty thousand men marching 
to that air.' " 




Before proceeding further with the details of 
Emmet's life, it seems desirable to describe as 
fairly as possible the condition to which Ireland 
had been brought by grievous oppression. A 
plain narrative of the order of events will serve 
the purpose far better than eloquent denunciation 
or rhetorical fireworks. It will be necessary to go 
back a year or two in order to enable the reader 
to correctly picture the state of things which led 
up to and explain the Insurrection of 1803, w *th 
which this book is more immediately concerned. 
Even in the opinion of a historian with the strong 
loyalist views of Mr. Lecky, the Government of the 
day cannot be exonerated from the charge of having 
fomented the rebellion, which was to burst into 
full fury in 1798. " In October, 1797," he says, 
"it would be difficult to conceive a more dreary 
or a more ignoble picture than Ireland then pre- 
sented. The Parliament had lost almost every 
quality of a representative body; the Government 
was at once bigoted and corrupt, and steadily 
opposed to the most moderate and most legiti- 
mate reforms."* Earlier in 1797 an insurrection 

* "History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century," Vol. iii., p. 140. 



was daily expected in the North, where the United 
Irish principles had taken deep root; but the revolt 
was postponed time and again till the promised 
landing of the French, who had committed them- 
selves to the explicit undertaking of an invasion 
to Wolfe Tone and the other Irish emissaries in 

Fresh negotiations were opened with France in 
April of this year by Edward Lewins, who was 
instructed to assure the Directory that all was ripe 
for insurrection, and to exact a promise of imme- 
diate armed assistance and a loan of ^ 5 oo^ooo. 
France was also asked, and agreed, to see that no 
peace would be concluded between her and Eng- 
land until Ireland was given a full measure of 
freedom. The Dutch were to co-operate with 
their fleet in the insistence on Ireland's claim. 
The French Government sent an emissary of their 
own to England, who, through another, reported 
that the Irish people were quite ready, and that 
an insurrection would be successful if backed by 
the French, but not otherwise. 

Dr. M'Nevin, one of the leading United Irish- 
men, was also sent to France in order to induce 
the Directory to hurry with the project. He told 
them that 150,000 men were enrolled by the 
United Irishmen in Ulster alone, that other parts 
of the country, if less numerously represented, 
were not less effectively ready, by their hatred of 
England, to strike a blow for the liberation of their 
country. " Even in those places where the United 



Irish system is not entirely adopted," he declared, 
"the co-operation of the poor and middle classes 
may be counted on. Their hatred of the English 
despotism, and the vexations they endure from 
their lords, cause the most ignorant among them 
to act in the same sense as the most enlightened 

All the most enthusiastic declarations of M'Nevin 
and Lewins and the most fervent appeals of Tone 
and others did not rouse the Directory from its 
lethargy. Promises were made, but time passed, 
and little was done besides making a show of pre- 
paration. Some fiery spirits, and notably Hoche, 
were burning to take part in, or to, at least, send an 
expedition to Ireland ; but jealousies, indifference, 
and even positive opposition on the part of others 
on whom part of the work would devolve, delayed, 
and finally wrecked the project. The promise to 
make no peace unless Ireland's independence was 
assured was flagrantly broken, and in the famous 
negotiations between England and France at Lille, 
the name of Ireland does not appear to have been 
even pronounced. Even the most exaggerated 
and extreme proposals or demands from France 
do not mention Ireland. There was a momentary 
hope from the failure of the peace negotiations, 
and from the extensive mutinies in the British 
fleets at Spithead and the Nore, but this hope was 
soon dispelled. The death of Hoche, the most 
ardent friend of Ireland in France, with the rise of 
Bonaparte, Hoche' s bitterest rival, and one who 



disbelieved utterly in an Irish expedition, soon 
relegated the chances of French help to a more 
distant date than the United Irishmen either 
desired or anticipated, and matters assumed their 
usually hopeless cast, to the mingled rage and 
grief of the Irish leaders. 

The Irish Parliament had meanwhile drifted 
closer and closer to English wishes, apparently 
unconscious of the scheme long since conceived of 
throttling it out of existence. The iast Irish 
Parliament was elected early in 1798, and Grattan 
declined to stand for it, asserting in a powerful 
address published at the time, thai:, by corruption 
and other illicit means the Government was steadily 
undermining the power granted in 1782, and suc- 
ceeding in reducing the Parliament to a mere 
cipher, in making " the King in Parliament every- 
thing, and the people nothing." Mr. Lecky, whose 
predilections need not be insisted upon, admits 
sorrowfully that the Government was steadily 
paving the way, by a policy of exasperation, to 
open rebellion. Obviously, the only way to carry 
the already projected Union of the two countries 
was by stimulating rebellion, and then, with the 
excuse of that revolt before them, to crush it and 
insist upon the necessity of a centralisation of 
government. 44 No candid men, I think," says Mr. 
Lecky, "deny that acts of illegal, criminal, shame- 
ful, and exasperating violence, were, at this time, 
committed in Ireland with the full sanction of 
the Government; but," he adds, 44 it seems to 



me equally impossible to deny that a conspiracy 
existed, with which ordinary law was utterly un- 
able to cope." Grattan, in his address, impres- 
sively denounced the Government for "the in- 
troduction of practices not only unknown to law, 
but unknown to civilized and Christian countries." 

The condition of Ireland grew worse and worse. 
The pretence of England that its oppressive acts 
were necessary in consequence of the alarming 
condition of Ireland, suggesting that they were the 
effect rather than the cause of the troubles, is 
exactly what might have been expected. Public 
feeling in Ireland was becoming increasingly ex- 
acerbated. The Government, having good reason 
to know that their efforts to produce a rebellion were 
succeeding, began to mature their plans for crush- 
ing it, and Sir Ralph Abercromby was sent over to 
Ireland as Commander-in-Chief. Meanwhile the 
Press, which had been founded in 1797, after the 
suppression of the Northern Star, to voice the 
views of the national party, became more out- 
spoken than ever, and the only question in the air 
was whether the rising was to burst forth before 
the arrival of the French or after it — their coming 
in strength being still fervently hoped for. Sir 
Ralph Abercromby arrived in Ireland at a time 
when everything showed that an upheaval was 
imminent. His knowledge of Ireland, his known 
humanity and hatred of cruelty, would seem to 
have been against the likelihood of his being 
chosen to command the English troops in Ireland. 



He entered on his task with some reluctance, and 
speedily found reason to regret his appointment. 
The state of affairs in Ireland disgusted him, and 
he at once found it necessary to sternly control the 
troops under his command, who were guilty of 
innumerable outrages on the people. His indig- 
nant letters to the Government were not at all to 
the liking of the men who were engineering the 
Union. His orders to the troops were resented by 
the worst and most numerous section of the loyal 

Lord Charlemont wrote that Abercromby was 
acting "with the strictest propriety in his most 
difficult situation, and has the happiness of being 
cordially disliked and abused." Finally, Aber- 
cromby issued the famous orders of February 26th, 
1798, strongly condemning "the very disgraceful 
frequency of co;irts-martial, and the many com- 
plaints and irregularities in the conduct of the 
troops in this kingdom," which, he said, " un- 
fortunately proved the army to be in a state of 
licentiousness which must render it formidable to 
every one but the enemy," and calling upon the 
officers to deal stringently with all such conduct. 
Lecky admits that the publication of this order 
" produced a feeling approaching to consternation 
in government circles both in England and in Ire- 
land/' An outcry was raised against Abercromby, 
led by Lord Clare and John Foster, Speaker of the 
House of Commons in Ireland, and every effort, 
open and secret, was made to degrade him from 



his position. Foster, Clare, and others openly and 
frankly admitted that it was imperatively neces- 
sary to get rid of this soldier, who seemed to have 
scruples about carrying out the dragooning of 
Ireland which had been resolved upon. Clare 
was, of course, the most insanely angry of his 
opponents. He complained violently of " the 
peevish indiscretion" of the general's orders, said 
that he "must have lost his senses," called him 
"a Scotch beast," and admitted that it was "pro- 
voking that the critical situation in which we 
stand made it ineligible to resent his intemperance 
as it merited." 

Abercromby promptly sent in his resignation 
when he learned the extent of the cabal against 
him. In his letters he sticks to his guns, and so 
far from retracting any of his statements, reiterates 
them in stronger terms. 

"Within these last twelve months," he says, 
"every crime, every cruelty that could be com- 
mitted by Cossacks or Calmucks has been trans- 
acted here. The words of the order of February 
26th were strong; the circumstances required it. 
It has not abated the commission of enormities." 
Again, he says : "The abuses of all kinds I found 
here can scarcely be enumerated. I tried various 
means with little success; it was necessary to 
speak out." Lecky agrees that " the resignation of 
Abercromby completed the fatal policy which the 
recall of Lord Fitzwilliam had begun, and it took 
away the last faint chance of averting a rebellion." 



Before actually leaving the country, Abercromby 
went to Munster, which he was told was in serious 
rebellion, and found the report absurdly exag- 
gerated. He went everywhere without an escort 
and was unmolested, finding the people pursuing 
their activities as quietly as possible. Towards 
the end of April he left Ireland, and to the end of 
his life regarded his brief career in that country as 
the most honourable event of his life. He was 
succeeded by Lake, who was a more willing instru- 
ment in the hands of the loyalists. 

When the new Parliament opened in Dublin, in 
January, 1798, the serious attention of the Govern- 
was called to the state of the country by moderate 
men like Sir Laurence Parsons and Dr. Arthur 
Browne (one of the members for Dublin Univer- 
sity). The latter particularly animadverted on the 
house-burning and shooting which went on night 
after night. All who were merely suspected of 
treasonable views or practices, were, in some parts 
of the country, shot in cold blood ; and the houses 
of all persons suspected of disloyalty were burned 
if their owners were not at home at a particular 
hour of the night. The Government either shifted 
the odium on to the shoulders of the military autho- 
rities or denied the truth of the charges. It would 
be easy to fill pages with terrible examples of the 
military ferocity of the time, but there is no need. 
The prevalence of causeless military outrages can- 
not be disputed. The Government hushed up all 
proved atrocities, and sheltered the criminals. Mr 



Lecky truly enough states that "such a policy 
could hardly fail to drive the country into re- 
bellion, and to plant in it savage animosities and a 
distrust of law more dangerous, because more 
enduring, than rebellion." Lake, in his reports, 
admitted that in the North only the expected 
arrival of the French delayed hostilities. "The 
flame is smothered," he wrote, "but not extin- 
guished." By encouraging the spread of Orangeism 
the Government executed a MachiavePian stroke of 
policy. The efforts of the United Irishmen, chiefly 
Protestants, to ameliorate the condition of the 
Catholics, their desire to com 1 me both sections into 
a homogeneous whole for the benefit of the country 
against the common oppressor, were counteracted 
by the serious growth of the Orange body, which 
gradually succeeded in embittering the relations 
between the two religious bodies. 

The Government all f : time had fixed its mind 
on a union of the two Parliaments, and only 
awaited the opportunity to introduce such a 
measure, if only tentatively at first. Even while 
professing to have the idea of conciliating Catholic 
claims, steady support was given to the formation 
of Orange societies, whose raison d' etre was the 
destruction of " Popery." The United Irishmen 
were very strong in the North, and fairly powerful 
in Dublin and other parts of Leinster. In Munster 
there was a somewhat tacit, rather than actual, 
support of their views, while Connaught was sunk 
in apathy, and seemed content to vegetate without 



a thought of uplifting itself or of being uplifted to 
a sense of liberty. 

It was believed, on good authority, that early 
in 1798 there were, at least, 280,000 armed 
United Irishmen in Ireland. The leaders, Lord 
Edward Fitzgerald, Arthur O'Connor, Thomas 
Addis Emmet, M'Nevin, Oliver Bond, and M'Cor- 
mick, forming the Supreme Executive of the body 
in Dublin ui '98, were confident of success in the 
event of an ~ i insurrection, and chafed at the 
delay. The v. e somewhat divided opinions 
among those named as to the advisability of waiting 
for the French, and seine bitterness was created be- 
tween two or three of them, notably O'Connor and 
Emmet, on this account. The Government was 
generally aware of the existence of the conspiracy, 
but seems to have had little specific information 
against individuals until Turner and Reynolds 
informed against the ch ^s of the movement. 
Then the authorities decided to act. Reynolds 
told the Government of the forthcoming meeting 
at Oliver Bond's house at which the details of the 
insurrection were to be arranged, and the Govern- 
ment, on March 12th, swooped down upon the 
house at the time indicated and secured fifteen 
of the leading spirits who were there assembled. 
M'Nevin, Addis Emmet, Sweetman, and Jackson 
were arrested at another place. Lord Edward 
Fitzgerald escaped for a time, but was subsequently 
captured under circumstances well-known to every 
Irish reader. Martial law was proclaimed on the 




30th of March, and this measure effectually stopped 
the arming of the people, which had been silently 
going on for some time. 

Notice was given that unless all the arms of a 
given district were delivered up to the authorities 
within a certain time, the whole district would be 
burnt and devastated. House burning on an 
extensive scale had gone on in any case for 
some months, and was of course only further 
encouraged by the Government orders. Tortures 
and other practices, more or less hellish, were 
now resorted to when all other means of coercing 
the people failed. Demons in military shape 
were let loose on the people in every district 
where it was thought the conspiracy had taken 
root, and it would require a Dantean pen to 
adequately impress upon the mind the awful 
scenes which, on the testimony of the Government 
reports themselves, were enacted over a considerable 
part of Eastern Ireland. As it was impossible to 
obtain redress for any military outrage, no matter 
how unprovoked, the pandemonium that existed is 
better imagined than described. But a glance at 
the very moderate statement of the matter in 
Lecky's " History of Ireland in the Eighteenth 
Century,"* will convince any one that nothing 
could be worse. The record of such conduct as 
he only briefly summarises is not merely sufficient 
to justify Emmet's subsequent ill-fated attempt to 
rouse the people, but would justify fifty rebellions, 

* Pp. 270, etc., Vol. iv. 



and indeed justifies most of what has been since 
done by the people of Ireland as a protest against 
misrule. There is no doubt that the terrible 
conduct of the British soldiery practically suc- 
ceeded in its object, and that what might have 
been a widespread and bloody revolution was re- 
stricted to little more than a local insurrection. 
Although, in the words of Mr. Lecky, " driven 
to desperation by intolerable military tyranny," the 
people were either too terrified (in most districts), 
or too weak to make reprisals, and so for some 
weeks at least the military battue went on un- 
resisted. It had been intended to slowly develop 
the armed resources of the country, to prepare 
silently and steadily, and then, when all was ready, 
to give the signal for the general rising, and to 
invoke the immediate aid of the French. The 
military measures were certainly successful in in- 
ducing the premature explosion of the rebellion, 
and thus causing the failure of the project to 
overthrow English rule. 

3 6 



The first breaking out of the insurrection occurred 
on May 23rd, in the counties of Dublin, Kildare, 
and Meath. It quickly spread to Queen's County, 
Carlow, Wicklow, and eventually to Wexford, 
where the most stubborn fight was made. Had 
the rising been simultaneous, and had the French 
arrived with any considerable force and with a 
large supply of arms, undoubtedly the sweeping 
away of the British power in Ireland would have 
been an accomplished fact Ulster had signally 
failed to stand by its promises, partly, no doubt, 
owing to the spread of Orangeism, and the growth 
of a feeling that the rebellion in the East and 
South had partaken rather too largely of a 
Catholic peasant revolt The conduct of the 
French, too, in several parts of Europe and in 
America, was not calculated to reassure the sus- 
picious Ulstermen. Hence, when the rebellion 
did spread to the North, it was a very attenuated 
affair, and while those who fought and suffered 
deserve every credit for their steadfastness, it must 
be confessed that, seeing the possibilities and the 
actual preparations, Ulster does not come very 
creditably out of the struggle. The letters of 



Dean Warburton, Alexander, Bishop Percy, and 
others confirm the impression that they dreaded a 
Catholic supremacy in the Government which was 
to follow the successful issue of the rebellion. 

"The cunning and wary Northerners," wrote 
Warburton, " see that no revolution can be effected 
without a foreign aid (of which they now despair). 
... I think the Northern Dissenter will now be a 
spectator of that destructive flame which he him- 
self originally kindled up, and will take no active 
part in the present attempt." Again, Under- 
Secretary Cooke writes as follows to the Govern- 
ment : " The quiet of the North is to me un- 
accountable; but I feel that the Popish tinge in 
the rebellion, and the treatment of France to 
Switzerland and America, has (sic) really done 
much, and, in addition to the army, the force of 
Orange yeomanry is really formidable." Bishop 
Percy's views were almost identical. "Another 
cause which has alienated our Northern Irish 
republicans from France is the vile treatment of 
Switzerland and America, to the latter of whom 
they were exceedingly devoted, especially at Bel- 
fast, where they are now signing resolutions of 
abhorrence of French tyranny." Lord Camden 
wrote in precisely the same strain. Even the 
most fervent United Irishmen were disgusted with 
the French conduct, and when Wolfe Tone heard 
of Bonaparte's proclamation to the republic of 
Genoa in the year 1797, he was greatly disturbed, 
and told Hoche that were the fact known in 



Ireland, "it would have a ruinous effect. ... In 
Italy such dictation might pass, but never in 
Ireland, where we understand our rights too well 
to submit to it." Notwithstanding all these things, 
a partial rising did take place in Ulster, and the 
attack on Antrim on June 7th, 1798, proved to the 
Government that such a widespread hostility as 
existed against them could not but affect the 
North to some extent. But the Northern revolt 
was soon over, and M'Cracken and his brave 
followers were speedily dispersed, and either killed 
in action, executed, or exiled. Matters were much 
worse in Wexford, where a really terrible condi- 
tion of warfare was apparent Though defeated 
at Gorey on June 1st, the insurgents drove off 
Walpole on June 4th, and forced the retreat of 
General Loftus. 

The most desperate battle of the whole rebellion 
followed at New Ross on June 5th, when the 
British troops were routed at first, but which 
ended in a victory for the latter in the end. The 
insurrection proceeded with varying fortunes, and 
was fought through by the rebels with magnificent 
bravery, which has earned the warm admiration of 
many historians ; but finally the battle of Vinegar 
Hill, the massacre of Enniscorthy, and the execu- 
tions of Father Roche, Bagnal Harvey, Grogan, 
and others completed what must necessarily have 
been, from the lack of preparation on the popular 
side, a brief campaign ; and the Government were 
at last able to breathe freely. Not that military 



excesses were stopped. These went on still, but 
for all practical purposes the rebellion of 1798 
was at an end, and its leaders in the grave or the 

In April, 1799, after more than a year in Dublin 
prisons, Thomas Addis Emmet, John Sweetman, 
W. J. M'Nevin, and Arthur O'Connor were, with 
fifteen others,* removed to Fort George in Scot- 
land soon after their several arrests, and while 
there, entered into an arrangement with the 
Government which has been very much misre- 
presented. It was clear when they entered into 
this compact that the rebellion was practically at 
an end. From the signed statement of Emmet, 
M'Nevin, and Sweetman, one can plainly see that 
the reasons which induced them to sign the 
agreement with the Government were sufficiently 
serious to justify their conduct. In it they say : 

" From the event of the battles of Antrim and 
Ballinahinch, early in June, it was manifest that 
the northern insurrection had failed in consolidat- 
ing itself. The severe battle of Vinegar Hill on 
the 2 1st of the same month, led to its termination 
in Leinster; and the capitulation of Ovidstown, 
on the 1 2th of July, may be understood as the 
last public appearance in the field of any body 
capable of serving as a rallying point. In short, 
the insurrection, for every useful purpose that 

* Whose names were Roger O'Connor, Dowling, Chambers, 
Hudson, Neilson, dimming, Russell, Simms, Tennent, Hunter, 
Wilson, Dickson, Sweeny, Cormick, and Cuthbert. 



could be expected from it, was at an end; but 
blood still continued to flow — courts-martial, 
special commissions, and, above all, sanguinary 
Orangemen, now rendered doubly malevolent and 
revengeful from their recent terror, desolated the 
country, and devoted to death the most virtuous of 
our countrymen. These were lost to liberty, while 
she was gaining nothing by the sacrifice. 

" Such was the situation of affairs when the idea 
of entering into a compact with the Government 
was conceived by one of the undersigned, and 
communicated to the rest of us conjointly with the 
other prisoners confined in the Dublin prisons, by 
the terms of which compact it was intended that 
as much might be saved and as little given up as 
possible. It was the more urgently pressed upon 
our minds, and the more quickly matured by the 
impending fate of two worthy men." 

On the 24th of July the negotiation was com- 
menced, and was finally concluded a little later 
between the State prisoners and Lord Clare, Lord 
Castlereagh, and Mr. Edward Cooke, the Under 
Secretary of State for Ireland, as representing the 
Government. The main idea of the prisoners was 
that though their action might make them per- 
sonally unpopular, and might be used against 
them unscrupulously, it was essential that the 
pending trials and executions should be stopped, 
and the country allowed to recover itself from the 
chaos into which the struggle had precipitated it. 
The agreement was broken by the Government, as 



might have been expected, but the bona fides of the 
United Irish prisoners are above question. They 
were examined before a secret committee, and 
their answers so grossly garbled, and their views 
so malignantly misrepresented, that they had to 
publicly protest against the libels. They posi- 
tively denied that at any time they had acknow- 
ledged crimes, retracted opinions, or implored pardon, 
as the Irish Parliament had suggested. When the 
prisoners wished to publicly repudiate this mis- 
representation (which they had expressly declared, 
as part of the agreement, that they had a right to 
do should their actions or words be distorted), they 
were informed that it would be considered a 
breach of the arrangement, and the trials and 
executions would be allowed to proceed. The 
prisoners were thus obliged to postpone the publi- 
cation of their statement of the facts. 

Byrne and Bond, the two worthy men previously 
mentioned, were treacherously put to death by the 
Government, and in practically every essential the 
agreement was broken by the authorities. The 
prisoners publicly advertised that in no case did 
they name any individual — "On the contrary, we 
always refused answering such questions as might 
tend to implicate any person whatever." It was 
contended by the more extreme loyalists that this 
advertisement was quite sufficient to justify their 
immediate execution ; and there is no doubt that 
the Government was exasperated at what seemed 
likely to lead to an undoing of their plan for 



coercing and disheartening the country, the more 
so as the imminent arrival of a French expedition 
in Connaught was expected. The prisoners were 
detained in prison, notwithstanding all promises 
to release them (the proviso on the part of the 
Government having been that they should not 
return to Ireland). All that the State prisoners 
had themselves offered to do was to try and 
restore peace and to allow themselves to be exiled, 
or to freely emigrate to any country agreed upon 
by the Government. They were well aware that 
there was no legal case against them, or at least 
against most of them, and the Government had 
practically admitted this. Only those who had 
been actually guilty of murder — as the authorities 
termed it — were excepted from the compact. The 
American minister at the Court of St. James, Mr. 
Rufus King, had entered into collusion with the 
Government, and had induced the American Pre- 
sident to declare that the United Irishmen would 
not be permitted to land in the United States. 
The interdiction was, of course, soon set aside 
when the real facts of the case were presented to 
America, and Mr. Rufus King, who had endea- 
voured, by libelling their character, to prevent 
the prisoners from seeking a home in the new 
republic, was severely castigated in a public letter 
by Thomas Addis Emmet, which soon relegated 
this toady to the obscurity from which he had 
emerged for a brief moment. 

Among those who visited Thomas Addis Emmet 



in Fort George were his wife and Robert Emmet. 
Very little is known of the circumstances or time 
of Robert's visit, but it seems to have been early 
in 1800. He was perfectly acquainted with the 
negotiations of the prisoners with the Government, 
and presumably approved of them. During the 
rebellion and for some time after he seems to have 
stayed in Dublin quietly. There seemed to be no 
hope for the country at the time. 

It was probably during the interval between the 
cessation of the rebellion and his departure from 
Ireland on a foreign tour that Robert Emmet first 
made the acquaintance of Sarah Curran, about 
whose name the most romantic associations of his 
life are gathered. The younger Curran, in his 
biography of John Philpot Curran, thus alludes 
to the beginning of the acquaintance: 

" The projector of the late insurrection, Mr. 
Robert Emmet, who was a young gentleman of a 
highly distinguished family, of very striking talents 
and interesting manners, was in the habit of visit- 
ing at Mr. Curran's house. Here he soon formed 
an attachment to his youngest daughter. Of the 
progress of that attachment, and of the period and 
occasion of his divulging it to her, Mr. Emmet's 
letters, inserted hereafter, contain all that is to be 
told. It is necessary, however, to add, that her 
father remained in total ignorance of the motive of 
Mr. Emmet's visits, until subsequent events made 
it known to all. To a man of his celebrity and 
attractive conversation there seemed nothing sin- 


gular in finding his society cultivated by any 
young person to whom he afforded (as he so 
generally did to all) the opportunities of enjoying 

There can be no doubt that J. P. Curran was 
quite unaware of Emmet's attachment for his 
daughter, which was not reciprocated at once. 
Curran's conduct when he did discover the attach- 
ment was certainly not very creditable to him, but 
it is too often the case that brilliant talents are 
allied with a cold and cruel disposition. In the 
bosom of his family the famous orator often 
forgot the generous sympathies which were so 
marked a feature of his public pronouncements, 
and his treatment of his wife and children was, not 
to speak too mildly, tyrannical and heartless. 
This is well known to all students of the social life 
of his time, though his biographers are generally 
silent on the point. 

Emmet's love of Sarah Curran was, as has been 
said, not returned at first. It may be that he 
thought his suit was hopeless, or perhaps his desire 
for travel overcame every other consideration, but 
directly after his visit to Fort George he went on 
an extended foreign tour. The Union had been 
carried by the most unmitigated rascality ever 
practised, and it is no wonder if he sought a 
change of scene in disgust. But before coming to 
the period of his departure, it may be well to give 
a brief account of what was happening in Ireland. 

As soon as the rebellion was crushed, the 



Government began to mature their plans for a 
Union between, as the phrase goes, the two 
Parliaments and the two countries — a more 
accurate description of the process being the swal- 
lowing of the smaller Parliament by the larger, 
and with it the possibility of prosperity of the 
weaker country. We may take it for granted that 
Emmet saw all the proceedings which led to this 
act with anger and shame, and that he did his part 
in resisting the measure by every means which 
seemed to be within his reach. In the absence of 
absolute knowledge on the point, it may be fairly 
assumed that he concluded that nothing but armed 
resistance would have any weight with the English 
Government. In any case, his close connection 
with many of the leaders of the recent rebellion, 
and his thorough and undoubted sympathy with 
their aims, certainly underwent no change. 

Cornwallis, when he arrived in Ireland, found 
the country, as might be expected, in a deplorable 
state. The Government's encouragement of the 
excesses of the yeomanry had produced a ferocity 
in the more bigoted of its supporters which has 
no parallel in Irish history. Cornwallis himself 
admits and deprecates this. " The violence of our 
friends," he wrote, " and their folly in endeavour- 
ing to make this a religious war, added to the 
ferocity of our troops, who delight in murder, most 
powerfully counteracted all plans of conciliation." 
And he adds further : " The minds of people are 
now in such a state that nothing but blood will 

4 6 


satisfy them ; and although they will not admit the 
term, their conversation and conduct point to no 
other mode of concluding this unhappy business 
than that of extirpation. . . . The conversation 
even at my table, where you will suppose I do all 
I can to prevent it, always turns on hanging, 
shooting, burning, etc.; and if a priest has been 
put to death, the greatest joy is expressed by the 
whole company. So much for Ireland and my 
wretched situation." 

Just when the insurrection seemed, and in- 
deed was, at expiring point, the Government were 
startled to hear of the arrival and successful land- 
ing of a French force under Humbert at Killala, 
Co. Mayo. Space will not permit of a detailed 
account of the incidents which followed the land- 
ing of Humbert, with which, in any case, most Irish 
people are fairly familiar. The French triumph 
was of short duration. They landed on August 
22nd, 1798, and by September 8th, the remnant of 
their force had surrendered at Ballinamuck, but 
not before inflicting, with the aid of their Irish 
allies, one of the most humiliating defeats re- 
corded in history upon the English troops. 

A few isolated rebels, like Holt in Wicklow, still 
held out, but the rebellion w T as completely at an 
end early in 1799. 




THOUGH Cornwallis carried out many extremely 
harsh measures, he was not, as English generals 
and statesmen in Ireland went, a vindictive person. 
He was, naturally enough, blamed for his leniency. 
Bishop Percy had foreseen that he would not 
altogether suit the loyalists in that respect. " He 
will not be a favourite here," wrote the Bishop, 
" for he is very sober himself, and does not push 
the bottle. They also think him too merciful to 
the rebels." The implacable Lord Clare was of 
course among his opponents on this score. He 
insisted that Cornwallis had " much mistaken the 
nature of the people in supposing that they were 
to be brought back to submission by a system 
nearly of indiscriminate impunity for the most 
enormous offences," thereby vexing the souls of 
the loyal minority to a very considerable extent. 
Lecky, however, gives figures to show that even 
under the "mild" sway of this too humane general, 
terrible severity had been shown. Nearly 400 
persons had been tried during his regime up to 
March, 1799, of whom 131 were condemned to 
death, and 81 actually executed. Castlereagh, in 
a private letter of the 6th March of the year 

4 8 


named, admits that that does not by any means 
sum up the number of victims. " Numbers," he 
says, "were tried and executed by order of the 
general officers, which cases never came before the 
Lord Lieutenant, and it appears . . . that 418 per- 
sons were banished or transported by sentences of 
courts-martial. . . . Since Lord Cornwallis' arrival, 
exclusive of the infliction of punishment by mili- 
tary tribunals, great numbers were convicted at 
the autumn assizes." Madden conjectures that 
70,000 persons must have perished during the two 
months' struggle, but that number seems greatly 
exaggerated. Perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 was nearer 
the actual figure. The well-known Quaker writer, 
Mrs. Mary Leadbeater, states a horrible fact which 
illustrates in a gruesome way the state of things in 
Ireland. "For several months," she says, "there 
was no sale for bacon cured in Ireland, from the 
well-founded dread of the hogs having fed upon 
the flesh of men." 

The loss of property was so enormous, that it is 
impossible to get any idea of it. The loyalists' 
claims reached nearly a million pounds, but the 
awful losses of the insurgents and of the people 
generally are beyond computation. The country 
was, in many parts, little more than a mass of 
smoking ruins, and Ireland did not recover from 
the devastation for many years, if, indeed, it has 
ever recovered from it at all. 

Everything was now ripe for the projected 
Union, a proposal which, though broached as far 



back as 1776, was withdrawn in consequence of 
the intense unpopularity with which it was re- 
ceived. It was only during the rebellion that it 
was definitely decided to go on with the measure 
and to carry it through at whatever cost. This 
gives colour to the belief that the rebellion was 
engineered and precipitated by the Government in 
order to obtain support for their unpopular project. 

The destruction of the Irish Parliament, in- 
effective as that institution may have been for 
Irish purposes, was so necessary to England that, 
seeing her readiness to resort to any means which 
would ensure her predominance, there is no diffi- 
culty in believing the popular impression to be 
true, Even though actual facts may not be forth- 
coming to prove the accusation, Mr. Lecky, while 
doubting that Pitt and his ministers could be so 
" extremely wicked" as to " deliberately kindle" 
this rebellion, yet says: "Nor can it, I think, be 
denied that it is in a high degree probable, that a 
desire to carry a Legislative Union had a consider- 
able influence in dictating the policy which in fact 
produced the rebellion." 

At the latter end of 1798 there was considerable 
discussion between ministers as to the possibilities 
of the Union being carried. At first it was sug- 
gested that Catholic Emancipation, in some modi- 
fied form, should form part of the measure ; but, 
owing to the hostility of Lord Clare and others, 
and the expected disapproval of King George III., 
the idea was dropped. It is almost incredible, 



but is undoubted, that notwithstanding the known 
decision not to accompany the measure with any 
concession to the Catholics, many of the latter, 
and notably Archbishop Troy and other ecclesi- 
astics, were in favour of the change. There was 
strong opposition in many influential quarters, and 
even among strong supporters of the Government ; 
but Clare and Castlereagh resolved to proceed, 
and by enforced resignations, dismissals, and 
finally, by the most shameless bribery, gradually 
extended the number of Unionists among the 
officials and legislators in Ireland. 

No doubt some of the Catholic supporters be- 
lieved that Emancipation would soon follow the 
Union, and it was generally implied, or allowed to 
be implied, that such would be the case. Hence 
the considerable Catholic support of the Govern- 
ment project. The strongest and most insistent 
opponents of the measure were Protestants, who 
may possibly in some cases have been influenced 
by the same belief, and voted against the Govern- 
ment for that reason. 

On January 22nd, 1799, the Irish Parliament 
met for the last session but one, and in the King's 
Speech the question of Union was raised. It was 
pointed out that the House was pledged to no- 
thing but a discussion of the subject ; but several 
members, notably Sir John Parnell, George Pon- 
sonby, Sir Laurence Parsons, while agreeing that 
the Empire should be strengthened and con- 
solidated, declared that it should be done by 



" maintaining the undoubted right of the people of 
Ireland to have a resident and independent Legis- 
lature." Some of the speakers insisted that the 
loyalists were almost wholly against it, and that 
if it would please anybody at all, it would be 
the United Irishmen alone, who would naturally 
welcome whatever would embitter the people 
of Ireland against England. Others referred 
pointedly to the bribery already going on — " black 
corruption," said Plunket, " which would disgrace 
the annals of the worst period of the history of 
either country." One member, after declaring 
that he would vote against the Government, in- 
tervened later to announce his conversion. He 
had in the interval been promised a peerage by 
Lord Castlereagh, and obtained it in due course. 
The Government carried the Address by one vote, 
which was, of course, a severe defeat. In the 
Lords they had been more successful. Castlereagh 
announced his intention, notwithstanding the ex- 
tent and character of the opposition, of bringing 
forward a measure of Union. 

In a later debate the Government were defeated 
by five votes on a motion to omit the clause of 
the Address which referred to the advantages of 
an Union. There was immense rejoicing at the 
result, and Dublin was illuminated, even the 
General Post Office, a Government building, being 
lit up in honour of the occasion. Those windows 
which were not illuminated were broken, and 
Dublin was in a general tumult. The result of 



the first attempt would, in any country governed 
on constitutional principles (to use Lecky's words), 
"have been deemed decisive;" but the English 
Parliament persisted in their plan. Catholic peers, 
like Lords Kenmare and Fingall, and prelates, 
such as Archbishop Troy and Bishop Moylan, 
publicly stated their regret at the rejection of the 
proposed Union. In these circumstances, and 
knowing that by their steady corruption of 
members, they would eventually gain the day, 
the Government pressed on. The state of the 
country was very bad, even though actual re- 
bellion had ceased, and the authorities used these 
facts as arguments upon those who were weak 
and vacillating. Gradually more and more anti- 
Unionists were won over, and the measure was 
safe. In April an address in its favour was 
carried by an overwhelming majority in the Bri- 
tish Houses of Parliament. Cornwallis, though 
hating the work, was given unlimited authority 
to bribe all who were deemed to be useful for the 
purposes of the Government. " How I long," he 
wrote, " to kick those whom my public duty 
compels me to court;" and he adds: " Nothing 
but the conviction that an Union is absolutely 
necessary for the safety of the British Empire, 
could make me endure the shocking task which 
is imposed upon me." Mr. Lecky declares that 
" it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that every- 
thing in the gift of the Crown in Ireland, in the 
Church, the army, the law, the revenue, was at this 



period uniformly and steadily devoted to the 
single object of carrying the Union." In May 
Cornwallis reported that there were 148 votes 
certain for the Union, 98 against, and 54 doubtful. 
A month later the Government supporters reached 
165, and in December were believed to number 
180. In January, 1800, the Irish Houses met for 
their last session, and, strangely enough, the 
King's Speech contained no reference to the all- 
important question of the hour — an omission 
explained by the desire of the Government to 
wait till thirty-nine vacancies in the boroughs, 
caused by jugglery, were filled up, it being known 
that they would return Government hacks. 

Among the new members hostile to the Govern- 
ment was Grattan, for whom a seat had been 
purchased, and who had been induced by his 
friends to re-enter Parliament at this acute crisis. 

A large fund (about £100,000) had been raised 
by the Opposition in order to counteract the 
bribery of the Government ; but it was clear that 
the latter would succeed. The Unionists steadily 
maintained a majority in all the great debates 
which followed, though the Opposition strenu- 
ously seized every 'vantage ground of delay and 
fought the measure to the last, and the resolution 
in favour of the Union was finally carried on 
February 17th, 1800, by a majority of forty-six 




Emmet seems to have gone direct from Fort- 
George to the Continent. He spent the summer 
of 1800 in Switzerland, and after visiting the 
south of France and journeying a little way into 
Spain, he settled in Paris, intending to remain 
there till his brother's release, when he had almost 
decided, on his invitation, to accompany him and 
his family to the United States. The matter 
was, however, only just mooted then, and though 
Emmet at first welcomed the idea, he saw reason 
to abandon it later, as one of his letters, shortly to 
be quoted, makes clear. His stay in Paris was a 
very long one, but practically nothing is known of 
his movements there. When he went to Paris, 
there seemed to be no prospect of any successful 
rising in Ireland. But it is clear from Major 
Sirr's papers that a warrant had been issued for 
his arrest as far back as the 3rd of April, 1799, 
though no attempt had been made to execute it. 
But the fact of its being in existence may have 
been known to Emmet, and may have induced him 
to remain on the Continent longer than he at first 
intended. Extremely few of his letters are known, 
and of the few three are addressed from Paris. 



They were written in French, and a translation of 
them appeared in a New York newspaper about 
1868. Dr. Emmet has given them in his valuable 
44 Memoirs of the Emmet Family," and from that 
work they are here reproduced. They belong to 
the latter part of his stay in Paris, and were 
addressed to the Marquise de Fontenay, who, with 
her husband, had fled to Ireland during the French 
Revolution, and had become acquainted with the 
Emmet family. Unfortunately the originals seem 
to have disappeared. They are given here exactly 
as they appear in Dr. Emmet's book. 

"Paris, Rue d'Amboise, No. 9, 
Oct. 6th, 1 80 1. 

" I write to you, my dear Madame, according to 
promise, though I cannot yet inform you exactly 
of the time 01" my departure. I have just learned 
that my father has put up ' Casino' for sale for 
^2,000 sterling, and that he expects to dispose of 
it immediately. I need not tell you how grateful 
this news was to me. I have at last the hope of 
having us all united, and of enjoying the only 
happiness which now remains to us — that of look- 
ing back on the past in the society of friends who 
esteem us, with the full conviction of the purity of 
our motives. 

" I beg you will remember me to M. de Fontenay, 
and teil how anxious I am to see him. With kind 
regards to Mr. and Mrs. Bellow (?), believe me, 
my dear Madame, with sincere attachment, your 
young friend, " Robert Emmet." 



The second letter is much longer and more 
interesting : — 

" Paris, Dec. 19th, 1801. 

" I should have written much sooner, my dear 
Madame, if I had been able to satisfy you on 
the two things you inquired about. The Lord 
Cornwallis, now at Amiens, is the same who was 
in Ireland; the time he is to remain there is 
uncertain ; a month has been spoken of, but as his 
stay is not fixed, you should lose no time if you 
have anything to send to him. For my part, it is 
with very great pleasure that I communicate to 
you the news which has just reached me this even- 
ing. Two of the prisoners of Fort St. George, 

Tennent and have been already set at 

liberty, and the others are expected to be im- 
mediately liberated. I feel also glad to inform 
you that I had some time ago formed the resolu- 
tion of not soliciting the interference of this 
Government, but of simply asking whether they 
had yet made any stipulation for us or not. This 
I did, and having received an evasive answer, I left 
the place without making any demand, telling 
them at the same time, that we merited their 
intervention at least as much as the patriots of 
Naples. I first learned by a letter from London, 
that the principal motive that influenced the 
British Government in making the peace, was the 
declaration of Lord Cornwallis, that if ten thou- 
sand men landed in Ireland, the country would be 
infallibly lost. I have also been informed by a 



gentleman coming from London, that it is the 
intention of the British Government to proclaim a 
general amnesty, and to provide a system of con- 
ciliation in Ireland. So that, if we have not found 
friends to acknowledge or appreciate our services, 
we found enemies at least capable of estimating 
our importance. 

" I am in want of nothing, my dear Madame. 
If I were, I am quite convinced of the friendly 
interest you take in me, apart from the affection- 
ate manner in which you wrote to me; but in this 
respect, the liberality of my father has left me in 
want of nothing. 

"I shall write home without delay, as much to 
learn the opinion of my friends on the subject of 
this news, as to speak of the estate you mention ; 
if I have anything more positive I shall let you 
know at once. 

"Farewell, dear Madame, kindest regards to 
M. de Fontenay. " R. Emmet. 

"P.S. — It is said in the papers that Lord Corn- 
wallis and the other members are going to spend 
some time at Morfortaine, at Joseph Bonaparte's, 
until the opening of Congress, so you will have 
time sufficient to execute your projects. 

"To Madame Gabrielle de Fontenay, 

Chez Madame de Ruray, a Ponce, pres Mountoine par 
Vendome, Loire et cher." 

The third letter is the most important of the 
three, as it speaks of Emmet's future plans. It 



shows that Emmet had abandoned any idea of 
settling in America. 

" Saturday, April 2%th, 1 802. 

" I was prevented from writing to you, dearest 
Madame, by a sore eye, from which I suffered for 
the last two months. I was obliged to consult a 
physician, in the absence of my friend Lawless, 
who left Paris for some time. I am, however, now 
nearly well. 

"The news contained in your letter gave me 
great pain, and I feel deeply for all you had to 
suffer in a country which is no longer for you 
what it once was; and I sympathize the more 
with you from the fact that I believe I am myself 
on the point of making a sacrifice by returning to 
Ireland, which, though it is by no means so great 
a one as yours is, will, nevertheless, be a very pain- 
ful one to me. The letter which I enclose in this 
will probably give you the same information which 
I received this morning. My brother is deter- 
mined to make America his residence when he 
obtains his liberty, and he is anxious, if my ideas 
agree with his, that I should accompany him. 
The rest of my family will be obliged to remain in 
Ireland, so that just when I supposed that the 
peace would enable us all to be united, I have left 
for alternative but to choose between those who 
are dear to me in this world, and decide on which 
I must abandon. If I only thought of myself, if 
I only took into consideration the sorrows that 
are before me in Ireland, and the advantages I 



would find in the society of my brother, I would 
joyfully share his fate; but, on the other hand, I 
find that my father and mother have left me per- 
fectly free to make my choice, and have made the 
sacrifice of their own wishes, and that sacrifice 
shows me that I must not allow myself to be 
carried away by personal motives. 

" I have, therefore, determined on returning to 
Ireland, provided I can do so without contracting 
any engagement that might compromise my hon- 
our. No one better than you, dear Madame, 
knows how much has cost me the resolution of 
returning to a country where, in the presence of 
all that must awaken the souvenirs of the past, 
I must forget everything — that I had hopes, 
friends, tender ties perhaps. I am not, however, 
certain that this can be done ; and I doubt it 
myself. I am not, in any case, to leave until 
time will show us more clearly the intention of 
the British Government ; but this uncertainty is 
still more painful. You see that I open my mind 
fully to you ; but I do so because I am aware that 
the interest that you take in us is fully equal to 
that we take in your welfare and those (!) of 
M. de Fontenay. Farewell, dear Madame. I 
remain sincerely your friend, 

"R. Emmet. 

u P.S. — The letters which I enclose in this were 
brought by Mr. Barnes, of Dublin, and, I believe, 
they contain a letter of introduction for himself. 


I was forced to take off the envelope to put them 
in with mine. I see by the English papers that 
the prisoners of Fort St. George are to be liber- 
ated; but I doubt, more and more, that I can 
return to my native country. My address is 298 
Rue de la Loi. 

" Madame Gabrielle de Fontenay, 
Ponce, pres Mountoine, Loire et cher." 

The Fontenays are referred to as friends of the 
Emmet family in Mrs. Emmet's letters ; but the 
allusions are very slight, and not interesting 
enough to warrant their being quoted here. 

At this time it will be seen that there is no 
mention of an insurrection in Ireland. There 
seemed no hope for the country, and the prospect 
of a speedy peace between France and England 
made one of the most persistent hopes of the 
United Irishmen fade away into nothing. A little 
later, however, when the Fort George prisoners 
were released, their hopes momentarily revived, 
and in the probable event of a fresh collision 
between England and France, another effort to 
rouse the Irish people was almost certain to be 
made. It is thought by Madden that Robert 
Emmet was cognizant of the plans of the United 
Irishmen, and delayed on the Continent in order 
to assist in the pour-parlers between them and the 
French Government. He seems to have spent a 
good deal of his time studying military science; 
among the books belonging to him which fell into 



the hands of Dr. Madden being one on the subject, 
with various marginal notes in his handwriting. 
Before leaving Paris, Emmet had an interview with 
Bonaparte, which proved to him that the latter 
had no intention of concluding more than a brief 
peace with England, and gave him hopes of a 
speedy invasion. He was, nevertheless, unfavour- 
ably impressed with the First Consul, who referred 
him to Talleyrand, with whom he had several con- 
versations. Bonaparte, he gathered, was opposed 
to the creation of an independent republic in 
Ireland, whereas Talleyrand was in favour of it. 
Bonaparte, he thought, was, too, obviously think- 
ing only of the aggrandisement of France and 
himself, and was only in favour of the Irish 
struggle in so far as it helped that policy or 
damaged England. War did not break out be- 
tween France and England till May, 1803, and 
by that time the Irish leaders had practically 
given up all belief in the likelihood of French 
serviceableness to Ireland. Bonaparte had, ac- 
cording to Arthur O'Connor, expressed himself 
against any such attempt as had been outlined 
to him to raise an insurrection. Dr. M'Nevin, in 
a memorandum which he drew up on the matter, 
says that Emmet did not know, even in 1802, of 
the plot of a new Irish insurrection, all which 
goes to substantiate the opinion of the author 
of "Memoirs of the Emmet Family" that he 
was entrapped into his abortive rebellion by false 
representations made to him by emissaries of 



the Government. "In 1802," says M'Nevin, 
"when T. A. Emmet arrived in Brussels from 
Edinburgh, his brother came to meet him from 
Paris, and stayed there until towards November, 
when he returned to his family in Ireland. At 
the time he was in Brussels, he (Robert) had no 
knowledge of any design being then entertained 
in Ireland to make another attempt to throw off 
the British yoke ; but communications were soon 
made to him when in Dublin, supported by 
returns and details, which gave him assurance 
that the population of seventeen counties would be 
brought to act, if only one successful effort were 
made in the metropolis ; and to secure this, select 
bodies of men were to arrive unknown in the city 
from different quarters. It was hard to reject the 
proposition of taking part in the enterprise, and 
difficult to obtain any other knowledge of the 
reality of the means than what was furnished by 
the persons who projected, proposed, and were to 
be performers in the proposed undertaking." 

Before Emmet returned to Ireland he dined one 
day with Lord Cloncurry and Surgeon Lawless. 
"Emmet," said Cloncurry, "spoke of his plans 
with extreme enthusiasm; his features glowed with 
excitement, the perspiration burst through the 
pores and ran down his forehead." All those who 
knew him at the time agree that he did not 
originate the proposal of an armed insurrection in 
Ireland in 1803. It has been said above that 
Bonaparte was opposed to the idea. Arthur 



O'Connor, who is the authority for the statement, 
thus alludes to the matter. O'Connor was strongly 
opposed to it himself, but was bitterly prejudiced 
against Thomas Addis Emmet, and in conse- 
quence may be assumed to speak with some bias 
against Robert Emmet. Throughout his state- 
ment O'Connor speaks of himself in the third 
person : 

" The whole of the plans connected with Robert 
Emmet's plot were directed by the faction (T. A. 
Emmet, Neilson, etc.), but were not communicated 
to him (O'Connor) by them. Robert Emmet's 
plans were divulged to him by the French Govern- 
ment, who continued to treat with him as the 
accredited Irish ambassador, recognised as such 
by it, and known only as such by the Irish Direc- 
tory. The person in Paris who in this party had 
the most influence, was Russell, and the project 
devised by him and Emmet gave the finishing 
blow to the United Irish confederacy — Dowdall 
was engaged in this plot, but he (O'Connor) knows 
not what became of him. Bonaparte, in convers- 
ing with General O'Connor, expressed himself 
unfavourably of the attempt and of those engaged 
in it. 

" He (O'Connor) was apprised of the insurrec- 
tion in 1803, but had no part in it ; he looked on 
it as an act of madness. He had no connection 
with the Emmets, disapproved of them both. . . . 
As to Robert Emmet's attempt, how call that a 
plan which vanished in smoke the moment it saw 

6 4 


the light, and that instantly ended in the ruin of 
all those who were engaged in it. If those in 
France, who excited Robert Emmet, were in 
Ireland when the attempt was made, they would 
have been the first to condemn it as the height of 
madness — his brother Thomas the first ; but they 
were so unhappy in their exile in France, that they 
hazarded everything in Ireland that offered them 
a chance of their return."* 

O'Connor did not know that Emmet had ever 
been in Paris at all, and he says that Allen, 
the United Irishman, "who was constantly with 
Robert Emmet," and who gave him "a most 
minute account of their mad project," never sug- 
gested to him that Emmet had ever left Dublin. 
O'Connor says Thomas Addis Emmet knew of his 
brother's intention, and had mentioned it to the 
French Government, who consulted him about 
it. But the latter is a prejudiced witness, and 
it would be unsafe to place too much reliance on 
his views and opinions. Watty Cox's descrip- 
tion of Emmet and of his project may be given 
here as supplementary of O'Connor's. He was 
in a better position to know the facts than the 
Franco-Irish General : 

"Some time in the beginning of the year 1803 
Emmet's ardent and impetuous mind, impatient 
at what he conceived to be the degraded condition 
of his country, contemplated the possibility of 
throwing off the English Government and erecting 

* Madden, Vol. ii., pp. 235-6. 


in its place an Irish republic. We regret to say 
(because his country has lost one of her best 
children) that his judgment did not keep pace with 
his rapid fancy, great mind, and honest thinking. 
He was surrounded with a crowd of men, most of 
whom had no merit but the assumption of such 
character as they knew he admired, and none of 
them had any property. Idle and fashionable, they 
listened with raptures to his lessons on liberty — 
they appear this day to have been as deficient in 
principle as they were incapable of advising ; they 
lived at his table, and were literally covered with 
his clothes. They had not spirit to check the 
impassioned zeal he constantly exhibited, lest his 
judgment, being awakened, would quell the enthu- 
siasm that ruled him, and an abandonment of his 
plans would precede their dismissal. Prudence 
was skilfully drowned in the noisy approbation 
of men who could not exist but on the continua- 
tion of delusion. No one honest man appeared 
to interrupt the unthinking precipitation that his 
ardent imagination painted for the future glory of 
his country. No man ventured to show to his 
recollection the inevitable ruin that would attend a 
handful of young men with no resources but their 
leaders property, with no arms but about ten 
thousand pikes, thirty or forty bad muskets, and 
a hundredweight of gunpowder, as an adequate 
physical force and sufficient munitions of war, to 
be applied to taking possession of one of the most 
populous cities in Europe, from a garrison of ten 




thousand men. After allowing him to be misled 
by fictitious enumerations of men who were never 
consulted, and of military stores that were not 
existing, they added the character of the pander 
to the coward ; they were seen throwing into the 
streets on the fatal night the expensive uniforms 
which his money purchased, and seeking their 
safety by flight at the arduous moment when their 
more intrepid and humble associates were on the 
point of carrying the Castle by a coup de main. It 
was on the perilous moment these wretches fled — 
a panic ensued, a minute was lost — and in vain 
the intrepid youth attempted to rally his intimi- 
dated followers; after some ineffectual struggles 
they submitted to the misfortunes which their 
credulity led them into; they fled, and the field 
remained in the hands of their antagonists. Aban- 
doned by his officers — if we may call such cowards 
by such honourable appellation — the misled and 
infatuated youth strayed in different directions 
and hiding places. Afraid to involve his friends or 
kindred in his misfortunes, he studiously avoided 
all who could assist him and the refuge they 
might give him. He was at length betrayed and 
executed. He met death with becoming fortitude 
and with the most exemplary attention to religion." 
But it is necessary to return to the Continent. 




Before returning to Ireland, Emmet went to visit 
his brother, who was at this time released, and had 
been travelling in Holland and Belgium. Thomas 
Addis Emmet, in a letter to M'Nevin, addressed 
from Brussels, gives as his reason for not going to 
America at once " the uncertainty of peace or war, 
and the state of my little family here." Robert 
Emmet, accompanied by Hugh Wilson, one of the 
United Irishmen, saw his brother in Amsterdam 
in the August of 1802, and later, for the last time, 
in Brussels. In the letter to M'Nevin, quoted 
above, Thomas Addis Emmet, writing on Novem- 
ber 8th, says : " It is now above a month since I 
have seen R., and if Lawless received a letter from 
him, containing many commissions, etc., he can 
give you many particulars of him you would wish 
to know. From what he has told me, and what I 
have heard from other quarters, I believe that, 
besides ignorance and passion in the management 
of our affairs, if there was not treachery, there 
was at least great duplicity and bad faith." Dr. 
Madden suggests that the elder Emmet was 
acquainted with Robert's plans for a new inspec- 
tion, and that indeed the latter' s presence abroad 



for so long a time was due to the necessity of 
consulting the various United Irish exiles. He 
prints a story of his tramping through Normandy 
on foot on his way back to England, which does 
not seem very probable, but may be quoted here. 
It is to this effect : 

"An Englishman of the name of Lawrence — a 
very worthy and honest man — who had been in 
France all through the Revolution, in 1802 was 
settled at Andemar, between Caen and Honfleur, 
in Normandy, where he carried on the business of 
a tanner. In the year above mentioned, he stated 
to Mr. M 'Henry of Paris, that a stranger came to 
his house on a cold winter's night, and asked for 
shelter, saying that he had been travelling on foot, 
and had lost his way. The stranger turned out to 
be Robert Emmet. He was hospitably received 
by Mr. Lawrence, and after a day or two his 
desperate enterprise was disclosed to the latter, 
who did all that was in his power to dissuade him 
from it. Emmet remained with him for some 
weeks, and during that time, was dressed as a 
workingman in order to avoid the notice of his 
countrymen. At length he embarked at Honfleur 
for England, and Mr. Lawrence heard no more of 
him till the tidings came of his arrest and execu- 
tion. It would appear that poor Emmet's usual 
power of fascinating those who came in contact 
with him was felt by Lawrence, who never spoke 
of him but in terms of enthusiastic admiration and 



Emmet arrived in Dublin early in October 1802, 
and appears to have stayed at his father's for a 
little while, afterwards removing to a Mrs. Palmer's, 
at Harold's Cross, where he was known by the 
name of Hewit. He dined soon after his arrival 
with John Keogh, the leader of the Catholics 
of those days, at his house in Mount Jerome. 
According to Madden, Curran was present, and 
"the conversation turned on the political state of 
the country — on the disposition of the people with 
respect to a renewal of the struggle. Robert 
Emmet," Madden continues, "spoke with great 
vehemence and energy in favour of the probability 
of success, in the event of another effort being 
made. John Keogh asked, in case it were, how 
many counties did he think would rise ? The 
question was one of facts and figures. Robert 
Emmet replied that nineteen counties could be 
relied on ; and turning to Curran, he said, 6 Would 
you say an attempt should not be made with less ?' 
Curran, after a momentary pause, said, 'No; if 
there were two counties that could be thoroughly 
depended on, I would think about it/" 

With all respect to Madden's energy in collecting 
all gossip, reliable and unreliable, about Emmet, 
this story is obviously apocryphal. It is as absurd 
as it is badly told. Curran was the last man in 
Dublin at any time, and especially at that time, to 
commit himself to the statement attributed to him ; 
and Emmet, whatever he may have said to Keogh 
and others, would hardly have selected Curran as 



the person to ask for advice as to the probabilities 
of a successful rising. Many of Madden' s state- 
ments are highly exaggerated and must be received 
with suspicion, unless properly corroborated, and 
the above story is not peculiar in being set down 
as undoubted and undoubtable without any evi- 
dence of any kind to sustain it. Madden does not 
say where or from whom he obtained this account 
of the dinner at Keogh's. 

In this connection perhaps it would be well to 
refer to the sequel to the supposed guilty know- 
ledge of Keogh of Emmet's plans. He was known 
to be a very wealthy man, and probably the 
Government assumed that he would be one of the 
likely people to subsidise an armed insurrection — 
not that he ever gave them any reason to suppose 
that he was an advocate of extreme politics. 
After Emmet's arrest, the Government, according 
to Madden, sent emissaries to Keogh to examine 
his papers. He had that evening, according to the 
same authority, separated some which he thought 
should be destroyed, but did not like to burn 
them, as the ashes in the grate might incriminate 
him. He gave up all the papers, sealed, and was 
given a receipt for them, and afterwards went to 
the Castle to ask that they might be examined, 
but could not see "the secretary." He called 
again and again, and finally got his papers back 
with the seals unbroken. His clever ruse, if this 
story is to be believed, succeeded admirably, for 
his widow stated that some of the documents were 
gravely compromising. 



There is an extraordinary passage in Dr. 
Emmet's " Memoirs of the Emmet Family " 
which cannot be passed over. The gist of it is 
as follows: Dr. Emmet was given a permit some 
years ago to enable him to look over some of the 
State papers from 1798 to 1804, which were 
believed to be among the London records. But 
it was found that this particular section had been 
transferred to Dublin Castle for purposes of 
examination and classification. The late Sir 
Bernard Burke, then Ulster King-at-Arms, in- 
formed Dr. Emmet that he could not see the 
papers in question, as he (Burke) had called 
attention to the danger to the public good in- 
curred in allowing these documents to be ex- 
amined by any one save the officials. The Duke 
of Marlborough, the Lord Lieutenant, had accord- 
ingly directed the box in which they were con- 
tained to remain closed for a certain term of 
years, and Burke showed Dr. Emmet the identical 
box, with the injunction he had referred to in 
the handwriting of the Viceroy. In course of 
time, however, and after Burke became better 
acquainted with his visitor, he gave him, con- 
fidentially, a slight idea of the nature of the 
papers in the box. Sir Bernard Burke admitted 
that he had only partially examined the docu- 
ments in question, but had a clear recollection of 
some of them. Dr. Emmet promised to keep the 
matter confidential; but circumstances occurred 
which, in his opinion, justified him in breaking 



this confidence. The circumstances are — that 
while Burke was ill, and just before his death, 
the box of papers was removed or destroyed by 
the Tory Government of the day. This became 
known when, during the Liberal administration 
which followed, permission was given to examine 
the papers, and they could not be found. 

According to Sir Bernard Burke's confidential 
statement (not, of course, in writing), the methods 
employed by the Government to bring about the 
Union were (apparently) even worse than have 
been supposed. These the papers fully detailed ; 
but the point of most interest to Dr. Emmet was 
Burke's declaration that the Government had got 
up Emmet's rebellion in order to divert the public 
attention, and to allay the restlessness of English 
public opinion over the Napoleonic wars. He 
positively asserted that he had seen among the 
papers a letter from Pitt addressed to Secretary 
Marsden in Ireland " directing that another out- 
break" should be fomented, and " suggesting that 
Robert Emmet, who was in Paris, should be 
approached for the purpose." An unbroken chain 
of evidence existed in the papers to show that, in 
pursuance of this fell purpose, a Government 
agent went to Paris, saw Emmet (not, of course, 
in the character of an agent of the Government), 
and induced him, by false representations of the 
state of affairs, to return to Ireland. The papers 
also showed, said Burke, that Emmet was facili- 
tated in every way in his return, and it was clear 



that the Government was fully aware of every step 
he took, and yet allowed the movement to reach 
the height at which it was thought expedient to 
crush it. It is curious that Dr. Madden, inde- 
pendently of this revelation, of which he never 
heard of course, more or less corroborates Dr. 
Emmet's statement. 

The passages in which he deals with the matter 
are, though strictly belonging to a later chapter, 
worth giving here : 

" In Major Sirr's papers, deposited in Trinity 
College Library, there is a very remarkable 
memorandum in his handwriting, appended to an 
information respecting Robert Emmet's insurrec- 
tion in 1803. In this memorandum, which I copied 
in the latter part of 1857, but unfortunately have 
mislaid, he states that the Government had been 
apprised, previously to the outbreak, that a con- 
spiracy was on foot for its overthrow ; but the 
information given was discredited, and no action 
whatever was taken in it — such was the false 
security of the Government of the day. But he 
had reason to believe that in future no similar 
information would be so neglected by the Irish 

" In the same collection of papers of Major Sirr, 
in the volume for 1S03, aa< 3 a succeeding volume 
containing miscellaneous letters, of dates from 
1798 to 1803, I find various letters of spies and 
informers, of the old battalion of testimony of 
*79 8 > g ivin g information to the Major of treason- 



able proceedings, meetings, preparing pikes, eta, 
being in existence in the three months preceding 
the outbreak of the insurrection of the 23rd July, 
1803. I n the latter volume are many similar 
letters from a Roman Catholic gentleman in 
Monasterevan, suggesting arrests to the Major, 
and amongst others the arrest of a gentleman of 
some standing in society, a Brigadier-Major Fitz- 

"A month before the outbreak, notice was given 
to Government by two members of the Merchants' 
Yeomanry Corps, Messrs. Hawkesley and Ruther- 
ford, respectable merchants, who had been deputed 
by their corps to wait on Lord Hardwicke, to 
acquaint him with the intended revolt. An inter- 
view was granted, and they stated that their repre- 
sentations were not believed. It was no wonder 
if they were not ; for there probably had not 
been a week, for the last half century, when the 
Government had not received some alarming in- 
telligence of an intended disturbance of the peace 
— a tumult, a riot, a conspiracy of some kind, or . 
an insurrection. Nevertheless, there are proofs on 
record, that cannot be denied, that the authorities 
(that is to say, Mr. Wickham, the Chief Secretary, 
and Mr. Marsden, the Under Secretary), did know 
certainly, for four months previously to the out- 
break, that preparations were making for an in- 
surrection. The papers of Major Sirr can leave 
no doubt on that point. The Parliamentary 
debates of 1803-4, moreover, prove that some 



members* of the Government unquestionably had 
a knowledge of the preparations. In all proba- 
bility, the British Ministry had much ampler in- 
formation on that subject, from their agents in 
Paris, than Lord Hardwicke, at an early period, 
had in Ireland. The policy of the British Minister 
seems to have been to allow the conspiracy to go 
on, of which he held the threads in his hand, and, 
therefore, could eventually count on its defeat, in 
order to derive the benefit which would accrue 
from the suppression of an abortive insurrection, 
and thus to deter the people from a similar 
attempt at a moment more unfavourable for 
England to cope with it — the moment so long 
apprehended of an invasion of some part of the 
United Kingdom. Castlereagh's practised hand 
was manifest enough in this procedure in 1803." 

The papers of Major Sirr fully bear out the 
statement of Madden, that the Government was 
aware of the coming insurrection, and this, taken 
in conjunction with the non-arrest of Emmet, for 
whom, as has been stated, a warrant had been 
issued years before, go far to prove Sir Bernard 
Burke's declaration to be within, at least, the 
region of probability. 

Dr. Madden says in another part of his work : 
" There is no doubt that the conspiracy of 1803 
originated, not with Robert Emmet, but with 
parties in Ireland who contrived to keep their real 
objects undiscovered arid their 7iames, too y un- 

* The italics are Madden's. 

7 6 


revealed* — who managed to have projects of re- 
newed rebellion taken up by leaders of 1798 who 
escaped expatriation — men not of the highest order, 
intellectually or morally — who, having remained 
in Ireland, found means to enter into communica- 
tion with some of the principal leaders then in 
France, and through them with the First Consul 
and his Ministers." Again : " Nothing can be 
more clear, from: the official documents and Par- 
liamentary papers I have placed before my 
readers, than that Lord Hardwicke was kept in 
total ignorance of the preparation for Robert 
Emmet's conspiracy till the very evening of the 
outbreak on the 23rd of July, and that Mr. 
Marsden was in possession of all the secret know- 
ledge that was necessary to have enabled the 
Government to have seized on Emmet and his 
associates four months before that outbreak, and 
to have prevented the insurrection from ever 
having been attempted at all. But that result 
would not have suited Lord Castlereagh." 

Madden goes on to suggest that the traitors of 
1798, not yet discovered, were utilised by the 
Government to deceive the United Irishmen 
abroad, and to represent Ireland as ripe for another 
insurrection. There is every reason to believe he 
was perfectly correct in his conclusion that Emmet 
was betrayed into the ill-fated attempt at a fresh 
rebellion by the Government emissaries. Before 
leaving this matter, there is a sentence in a letter 

* The italics are Madden's. 



of Grattan's to Fox, dated December 12th, 1803, 
which is illuminative. He says: "Mr. Pitt had 
never been able to raise a rebellion by his measures 
if he had not been assisted by the gross manners 
of his partisans." Grattan, of course, alludes to 
the events of the year 1803. 




Dr. Madden quotes the recollections of Mr. 
David Fitzgerald (father of the late Irish judge, 
the Right Hon. J. D. Fitzgerald), who was among 
those arrested in 1803, but subsequently released 
on account of his youth, being then only eighteen, 
as to the earlier arrangements made by Emmet for 
the rebellion. Mr. Fitzgerald was a near relative 
of the Mr. Long he refers to, and was personally 
acquainted with Emmet. His account is as follows : 

" Robert Emmet came over from France in 
October, 1802. Very soon after his arrival he 
dined at Mr. Philip Long's in Crow Street, of the 
house of Roche & Long, general merchants. . . . 
When he arrived in Dublin, he professed to have 
come over about his private affairs, and not about 
public matters. He went into society, and visited 
people of consequence; he dined occasionally at 
James Ryan's of Marlborough Street — the gentle- 
man who was styled Duke of Marlborough — and 
also at Mr. George Evans'. 

" The preliminary articles of peace were signed 
the end of October, 1801. This had put an end to 
any idea of attempting a new struggle at that 
period ; but when war was about to be declared in 



March, 1803, this altered the aspect of affairs in 
Ireland. Then Emmet began to talk seriously of 
preparations. Mr. Long contributed the funds. 
All the money transactions between Mr. Emmet 
and him passed through Fitzgerald's (the narrator's) 
hands. Mr. Long advanced altogether to Emmet 
about £1,400. . . . The first money advanced to 
Mr. Emmet was in May, 1803. All the money 
thus advanced was lost. Mr Long was then rich — 
he was always generous. He died in reduced 
circumstances, but not in absolute poverty." 
Fitzgerald's recollections of what happened sub- 
sequently will be used later. 

It has been generally believed that the entire 
funds used in the preparation of the insurrection 
were provided by Emmet, and consisted in £3,000 
left him by his father. But it seems clear that 
Emmet never received more than £1,500 from his 
father's estate (Lord Castlereagh's statement in 
the Parliamentary debate on the affair of 1803 was 
that he had got £3,000) ; and it is certain that 
other people contributed sums as well as Emmet. 
Long certainly did, as we know from sources other 
than the one referred to. 

The elder Emmet died on December 9th, 1802, 
in the 73rd year of his age, and was buried in St. 
Peter's Churchyard, Aungier Street, on the 12th. 
By his will he left the reversion of a sum of £2,100 
to his son Robert, to be paid after his mother's 
death ; his property in Kerry and his Miltown 
house, etc., to his son Thomas Addis Emmet; and 


after providing for his daughters, left his residue 
to be divided, share and share alike, between his 
two sons aforesaid. Dr. Madden could only trace 
sums amounting altogether to £337, 14s. od. as 
being remitted to Emmet between the dates Sep- 
tember 1st, 1801, and August 13th, 1802, less than 
one year, but it is probable that on his return to 
Dublin his father made some provision for the 
younger son ; and his friends, according to Madden, 
placed the amount which he possessed after his 
father's death, at about £1,500. 

In the latter part of 1802, just before Dr. 
Emmet's death, his house, Casino, near Miltown, 
Co. Dublin, was searched by Major Swan. He 
came there late in the day, says Madden, and 
asked to see the younger Emmet. The Doctor 
replied that he had gone into town early that 
morning ; after which Swan looked more or less 
perfunctorily into some rooms on the ground floor 
and then departed, saying as he went, " I am very 
glad I did not find your son Robert at home." 
This statement was communicated to Dr. Madden 
by John Patten, brother-in-law of Robert Emmet, 
who also said that Dr. Emmet had no knowledge 
of his son's project of an insurrection. 

"Dr. Emmet," says Madden, "had strange 
notions about Robert ; he frequently spoke to Mr. 
Patten of the difference of manner and appearance 
of Robert from his brothers. He had not the 
gravity or sedateness of Temple and Thomas 
Addis Emmet ; his boyishness of air and apparent 



unfitness for society, or unwillingness to engage in 
active intercourse with men of the world, made the 
poor old doctor uneasy about Robert's destiny. . . . 
On one occasion, when Dr. Emmet was talking in 
this strain at Casino to Mr. Patten, the latter said 
that he attributed the peculiarities mentioned by 
the Doctor to the extreme diffidence of Robert — 
he was so modest, reserved, and retiring, that he 
seemed unconscious of his own powers. The old 
Doctor said such was not the case when Robert's 
mind was made up on any point — he had no 
diffidence — no distrust — no fear of himself. ' If 
Robert,' said his father, 1 was looking out of that 
window, and saw a regiment passing that was 
about to be reviewed, and was informed that the 
Colonel had just falien from his horse and was 
incapacitated for his duty, and it was intimated to 
him that he might take the Colonels place, and put 
his taste for the reading of military tactics and 
evolutions to the test, Robert would quietly take 
his hat, place himself at the head of the regiment, 
and give the necessary commands without any 
misgivings or manvaise hojite! 

" I asked Mr. Patten," proceeds Madden, "what 
did this kind of self-confidence arise from — was it 
from vanity ? was Robert personally vain ? was he 
vain of his talents ? — of his intellectual superiority 
over others in any attainment, in argument or 
discourse ? Mr. Patten's answer was in these 
words : 

From vanity ! Oh ! dear, no — Robert had not 




a particle of vanity in his composition. He was 
the most free from self-conceit of any man I ever 
knew. You might live with him for five years — 
ay, for ten years — in the same house — in the same 
room even, and never discover that he thought 
about himself at all. He was neither vain of his 
person nor his mind.'" 

With reference to Emmets personal appearance, 
mention may be made here of one or two descrip- 
tions of him which are on record. The first one 
Madden obtained from a Mr. John Fisher, who 
says : " I knew Robert Emmet's person very well. 
In 1803, he appeared to be not more than 26 years 
of age, of gentlemanly appearance, possessing 
handsome features, inclined to a dark complexion ; 
not exceeding in stature five feet six inches." Dr. 
Madden's description, presumably also obtained 
from those who knew Emmet, is more particular : 
f" In stature he was about five feet eight inches ; 
slight in his person, active, and capable of enduring 
great fatigue ; he walked fast, and was quick in 
his movements. His features were regular; his 
forehead high and finely formed ; his eyes were 
small, bright, and full of expression ; his nose 
sharp, remarkably thin, and straight; the lower 
part of his face was slightly pock-pitted, and his 
complexion sallow. There was nothing remark- 
able in his appearance except when excited in 
conversation, and when he spoke in public on any 
subject that deeply interested him. His counte- 
nance then beamed with animation — he no longer 



seemed the same person — every feature became 
expressive of his emotions — his gesture, his action, 
everything about him seemed subservient to the 
impulses of generous feelings, and harmonised with 
his passing thoughts/] \ 

Dr. Elrington, the Provost of Trinity College, 
who sent, unasked, a description of Emmet's 
appearance, wanted for the Hue and Cry, furnished 
one which he seems to have thought likely to earn 
him the gratitude of the authorities. It is cer- 
tainly not a flattering one of Emmet as he was 
"five years ago." "In 1798, he was near twenty 
years of age; of an ugly sour countenance ; small 
eyes, but not near-sighted ; a dirty brownish com- 
plexion; at a distance looks as if somewhat marked 
with the smallpox; about five feet six inches high; 
rather thin than fat, but not of an emaciated figure 
— on the contrary, somewhat broad-made; walks 
briskly, but does not swing his arms." 

The letter in which this description occurs was 
written on the 7th of June, nearly two months 
before the breaking out of the insurrection, but the 
Government did not act upon it. Meanwhile, 
Emmet was in concealment. His first residence 
after leaving his father's was, as already stated, at 
a Mrs. Palmer's at Harold's Cross, where he lodged 
under the name of Hewit. " The house in Harold's 
Cross,"* says Madden, " where Robert Emmet 
lodged soon after his arrival in Ireland, and a 
second time, after the failure in July, is situated 

* The house no longer exists. 


on the left-hand side of the road, at a short 
distance from the canal bridge. The house is a 
small one, a little further back from the roadside 
than the adjoining ones, and had wooden palings 
in front of it." Madden goes on to say that 
Emmet "left Mrs. Palmer's in the course of the 
same month, and on the 27th of April got pos- 
session of a house in Butterfield Lane, in the 
vicinity of Rathfarnham, which was taken on lease 
in the name of Ellis ; and while Emmet remained 
there he went by the name of Robert Ellis. The 
same contrivances which poor Emmet had recourse 
to in his former abode were vainly put in practice 
at his lodgings in Harold's Cross. In the back 
parlour, which was his sitting room, he made an 
aperture in the wall, low down, nearly on a level 
with the flooring, large enough to admit a man's 
body ; the masonry had been excavated inwards, 
in a slanting direction ; there was sufficient space 
thus made to enable him to draw his body in, 
and to place a board painted the colour of the 
wainscot against the open aperture, when he had 
thus drawn himself in. His active preparations 
commenced in the month of March, and the most 
authentic account of them that I have been able to 
obtain was communicated to me by James Hope," 
(one of the Northern Irish leaders). Hope's 
recollections are among the most definite of those 
obtained by Madden, and it is necessary to give 
them almost in their entirety. 

"Mr. Emmet," says Hope, "was not, as has 



been supposed, the originator of the preparations 
of 1803. These had begun in Dublin to second 
an effort in England, expected by some other 
Irishmen, under Colonel Despard.* This informa- 
tion found its way from Ireland to the British 
Government, through the imprudence of Dowdallf 
in Dublin, who was Colonel Despard's agent — 
namely, that some preparation had been begun 
there to second the Colonel's effort. Information 
of Dowdall's proceedings, on the other hand, had 
reached the refugees in Paris, by whom Robert 
Emmet was sent to Dublin to ascertain the state 
of things there. He fell into the hands of men by 
whom he was advised to go on with the necessary 
preparations for an effectual rising, with a solemn 
promise of every assistance in money and advice. 
Mr. Emmet came over first, Hamilton! next came, 
and Quigley § about the same time. Hamilton was 
sent back to Paris to bring over Russell, || who 
came over immediately, and I soon was placed in 
close communication with him. Mr. Emmet, soon 
after his arrival, had lodgings at Harold's Cross in 
the house in which he was ultimately taken after 
having quitted Butterfield Lane. Both Emmet 

* A native of Queen's County, who was tried and executed in 
London in February, 1803. 

t William Dowdall, one of the '98 men and a Fort George 

£ Counsellor William Hamilton, a nephew of Thomas Russell. 
§ Michael Quigley, of Rathcoffey, Co. Kildare. 
|| Thomas Russell, Emmet's closest friend. 



and Russell were strongly opposed to the party 
called ' foreign aid men,' and I had been so from 
the beginning. Situated as the Irish exiles were 
in Paris, they were easily duped into a fresh 
struggle by the information they received from 
some of the higher order in Ireland, who had some 
suspicion of what was going on, but no precise 
knowledge of the design. 

" Some persons in connection with Talleyrand, 
in 1802, gave the Irish refugees to understand that 
Bonaparte was in treaty with the British Govern- 
ment to banish them from France, their residence 
there not being considered favourable to Bona- 
parte's imperial views. A fabricated letter came 
to the north, dated from Paris, about this time, 
purporting to be from a captain of a French 
lugger, off the Giants' Causeway, having 10,000 
stand of arms on board, for the service of the 
United Irishmen. The letter was in bad English : 
the paper, however, was English manufacture — it 
was fabricated by our enemies. The fire of 1798 
was not quite extinguished — it smouldered, and 
was ready to break out anew. There were persons 
of distinction in the confidence of our leaders, who 
kept up communication with them in exile, and 
were in league with the oligarchy at home, which 
Russell and Emmet, from the purity of their in- 
tentions, never suspected. 

" At my first interview with Mr. Emmet, on his 
arrival from France, he told me that ' some of the 
first men of the land had invited him over;' he 



asked my opinion, 'Was I for an appeal to arms V 
I replied, 'I was.' After some further conversation, 
he said 'his plan was formed.' 

" On my second interview with Mr. Emmet, he 
told me he would require my constant assistance, 
and said that two stores were taken, and workmen 
had been selected. Mr. Emmet engaged in this 
attempt in consequence of promises from the 
upper ranks of assistance to make the preparation 
general over the island. When money failed, 
however, treachery in the upper ranks began to 
appear, as in all former struggles. No money was 
forthcoming, and Mr. Emmet had no alternative 
but to shut the stores and discharge the men, 
which must be attended with the worst conse- 
quences; or go to work with what resources he 
had, which, if properly directed, were fully suffi- 
cient to take the city and Castle of Dublin. 

" On making a remark to Mr. Emmet respecting 
the defection of Colonel Plunket,* he said : 1 There 
were many who professed to serve a cause with 
life and fortune, but if called on to redeem their 
pledge, would contrive to do it with the lives and 
fortunes of others. For my part,' said he, 6 my 
fortune is now r committed ; the promises of many 
whose fortunes are considerable are committed 
likewise, but their means have not been as yet 
forthcoming. If I am defeated by their conduct, 
the fault is not mine. Even my defeat will not 
save the system which I oppose, but the time will 

* One of the '9S men and chief of the Connaught forces then. 



come when its greatest advocates cannot live under 
the weight of its iniquity ; until which time my 
reasons for the present attempt will not be fully 
understood, except by the few who serve and may 
suffer with me. The elements of dissolution are 
gathering round the system by which these three 
islands are governed, and the Pitt system will 
accelerate its fall/ 

" Having been Mr. Emmet's constant attendant 
for some months, on our way from the depot in 
Dublin to his house in Butterfield Lane, many 
conversations of this kind have passed, and many 
things that I learned from him are sealed up by 
his last request. In conversing on the state of 
the country, I expressed an opinion to Mr. Emmet 
on the subject of the rights of the people in rela- 
tion to the soil, which, until they were recognised, 
it would be in vain to expect that the north would 
be unanimous. On expressing this opinion at some 
length to Mr. Emmet, his answer was: 6 1 would 
rather die than live to witness the calamities which 
that course would bring on helpless families ; let 
that be the work of others — it shall never be mine. 
Corruption must exhaust its means before equity 
can establish even its most reasonable claims/ 

" Russell and Hamilton were of Mr. Emmet's 
opinion on that subject. ' This conspiracy/ said 
Russell, 'is the work of the enemy; we are now in 
the vortex — if we can swim ashore, let it not be 
through innocent blood ; if the people are true to 
themselves, we have an overwhelming force; if 


8 9 

otherwise, we fall, and our lives will be a sufficient 
sacrifice.' 'One grand point,' said Mr. Emmet, 
'at least will be gained. No leading Catholic is 
committed — we are all Protestants — and their 
cause will not be compromised.' Shortly after the 
preceding conversation, I was ordered to go with 
Russell to the north, a week before the outbreak, 
and on the following morning Russell and I left 
Mr. Emmet's house before day. Arthur Devlin* 
was appointed in my place to attend Mr. Emmet. 
There was a gentleman from Cork, and also one 
from the County Meath, in Mr. Emmet's company 
the day before we left him. 

"Mr. Emmet's great object was to attack the 
Castle, and make hostages of the Viceroy and 
officers of Government, but the Kildare men were 
the only men who were at hand ; there was a 
party of Wexford men under Michael Byrne, now 
in France, at Ringsend, or the neighbourhood of 
it. Mr. Emmet relied too much on the north when 
he sent Russell there. The man who was to supply 
my place, and was entrusted with the arrange- 
ments between the people of Dublin and those 
who were expected from Wicklovv, was sent to 
communicate with Dwyeiyf but that man remained 
at Rathfarnham, and his doing so caused all the 
plans to fail, for instead of the organised party 

* Possibly this Devlin was a brother of Anne Devlin, Emmet's 
servant at Butterfield Lane. 

f The famous Wicklow outlaw, who was co-operating with 


which was expected, a body of stragglers only 
appeared in Thomas Street, who killed Lord 
Kilwarden and a clergyman named Wolfe (whom 
they should only have detained as prisoners); and 
Mr. Emmet, seeing nothing but disorder, and 
having no communication with any regular body, 
some of whom remained all night under arms, he, 
with a few friends, returned to Rathfarnham, and 
the people shifted for themselves. The reason he 
went to Rathfarnham was that he had dispatched 
the messenger (Arthur Devlin) to Dwyer in the 
Wicklow mountains, and expected him by day- 
light, but Dwyer got no intelligence until he heard 
of the defeat, or rather miscarriage of Emmet's 
attempts on Dublin. Arthur Devlin was a relative 
of Dwyer' s, and went with him to Botany Bay. 
Another man, a cousin of his, named Michael 
Dwyer, had been likewise sent on a message to 
Dwyer, and he also neglected his orders ; he 
pretended to go, and stopped near Dublin. 

" In the several depots there were no less, to my 
knowledge, than forty men employed, only three 
or four of whom became traitors, and that not till 
their own lives were in danger. The men behaved 
with the greatest prudence, none seeming to wish 
to know more than concerned their own depart- 
ment ; each man's duty was kept separate and 
secret from the other. I was first attached to the 
rocket depot in Patrick Street, and then had to 
superintend the ammunition in its making up and 
delivery, and the transporting arms and gun- 



powder to the country. Barney Duggan* was 
chiefly an out-door emissary, employed in carrying 
on communications. I was in the habit of calling 
on Mr. Emmet when I wanted instructions through 
the day, and reporting progress at night. Mr. 
Emmet had arranged with H. Howley to take 
the store in Thomas Street in the name of the 
latter. In this store the pikes, firearms and various 
implements cf war were deposited. M'Intosh,*f" a 
Scotchman, about forty years of age, took the 
house in Patrick Street for another store, for the 
rockets, grenades, and a depot for gunpowder. . . . 
The extent of the preparations in Dublin will 
never be fully known. Considerable quantities of 
gunpowder were sent to the country, and one stout 
party in particular, who had defied the power of 
Government for five years in the mountains of 
Wicklow, was amply supplied with ammunition 
and arms." So far James Hope's narrative, which 
may be supplemented from other sources. 

* Afterwards an informer. 

t Executed afterwards in Patrick Street, opposite the store of 
which he had charge. When examined before Major Sirr, in 
August, 1803, he said he lived at 26 Patrick Street (the store), and 
had a lease of twenty-seven years from a Mr. Hugh Holmes. 

9 2 



Emmet must have made up his mind very 
promptly, and must have acted on his decision the 
moment it was formed. We have the authority of 
his brother-in-law for attributing diffidence to him, 
but his firmness and confidence, once he felt that 
the time had come to act, were equally character- 
istic. There is a letter of his, which was intended 
for his brother Thomas, but was intercepted by 
the Government, in which he gives a full and 
detailed account of his plans for carrying Dublin 
and the Castle. The letter was written after his 
conviction, and was handed to Dr. Trevor, the 
physician at the prison, to forward to Thomas 
Addis Emmet. Part of it was subsequently dis- 
covered at the Castle, and the other portion was 
found in the Irish Office, London. Here is the 
document : 

"The plan was comprised under three heads: 

Points of Attack — Points of Defence — and Lines of 

"The Points of Attack were three — the 
Pigeon House, the Castle, and the artillery bar- 
racks at Island Bridge. The attack was to begin 



with the Pigeon House ; number of men, 200— the 
place of assembly, the strand between Irishtown 
and Sandymount — the time, low water — the men 
to divide into two bodies — one to cross by a sand- 
bank, between the Pigeon House and lighthouse, 
where they were to mount the wall ; the other 
to cross at Devonshire Wharf ; both parties to 
detach three men with blunderbusses, and three 
with jointed pikes concealed, who were to seize 
the sentries and the gates for the rest to rush in. 
Another plan was formed for high water by means 
of pleasure or fishing boats going out in the morn- 
ing, one by one, and returning in the evening to the 
dock at the Pigeon House, where they were to 
land. A rocket from this was to be the signal for 
the other two, viz.: 

"The Castle — the number of men, 200. The 
place of assembly, the Patrick Street depot. A 
house in Ship Street was expected ; also one near 
the gate. A hundred men to be armed with 
pointed pikes and blunderbusses, the rest to sup- 
port them, and march openly with long pikes. To 
begin by the entrance of two job coaches, hackney 
coachmen, two footmen, and six persons inside, to 
drive in at the upper gate into the yard, come out 
of the coaches, turn back, and seize the guard (or, 
instead of one of the job coaches, a sedan going in 
at the same time, with two footmen, two chairmen, 
and one inside); at the same moment a person 
was, in case of failure, to rap at Lamprey's door, 
seize it, and let in others, to come down by a seal- 



ing ladder from a window on the top of the guard- 
house ; while attacks were made at a public-house 
in Ship Street, which has three windows com- 
manding the guard-house ; a gate in Stephen's 
Street; another at the Aungier Street end of Great 
George's Street, leading to the ordnance ; another 
at the new house in George's Street, leading to the 
riding-yard ; and another over a piece of a brick 
wall near the Palace Street gate. Scaling ladders 
for all these. Fire-balls, if necessary, for the 
guard-house of the upper gate. The Lord Lieu- 
tenant and principal officers of Government, to- 
gether with the bulk of artillery, to be sent off 
under an escort to the commander in Wicklow, in 
case of being obliged to retreat. I forgot to 
mention that the same was to be done with as 
much of the Pigeon House stores as could be. 
Another part, with some artillery, to come into 
town along the quays and take post at Carlisle 
Bridge, to act according to circumstances. 

" Island Bridge, 400 men. Place of assembly, 
quarry hole opposite, and burying ground. Eight 
men with pistols and one with a blunderbuss to 
seize the sentry walking outside, seize the gates — 
some to rush in, seize the cannon opposite the 
gate; the rest to mount on all sides by scaling 
ladders ; on seizing this, to send two cannon over 
the bridge facing the barrack road. Another 
detachment to bring cannon down James' Street, 
another towards Rathfarnham, as before. To 
each of the flank points when carried reinforce- 



ments to be sent, with horses, etc., to transport the 
artillery. Island Bridge only to be maintained (a 
false attack also thought of, after the others had 
been made, in the rere of the barracks, and if 
necessary to burn the hay stores in rere). 

" Three rockets to be the signal that the attack 
on any part was made, and afterwards a rocket of 
stars in case of victory ; a silent one of repulse. 
Another point of attack not mentioned, Cork 
Street Barracks, if the officer could surprise it and 
set fire to it ; if not, to take post to the house (I 
think in Earl Street, the street at the end of Cork 
Street leading to Newmarket, looking down the 
street with musketry, two bodies of pikemen in 
Earl Street) to the right and left of Cork Street, 
and concealed from troops marching in that street. 
Another in (I think) Marrowbone Lane to take 
them in the rere. Place of assembly, fields ad- 
jacent, or Fenton-fields. 

" Points of Check.— The old Custom House, 
300 men — Gate to be seized and guard disarmed ; 
the gate to be shut or stopped with a load of 
straw, to be previously in the street. The other 
small gate to be commanded by musketry, and 
the bulk of the 300 men to be distributed in 
Parliament Street, Crane Lane, and those streets 
falling into Essex Street, in order to attack 
them if they forced out. The jointed pikes and 
blunderbusses lying under great coats rendered all 
these surprises unexpected; fire-balls, if necessary, 
and a beam of rockets. 

9 6 


" An idea also was, if money had been got, to 
purchase Rafterty's cheese shop, opposite to it, to 
make a depot of assembly; and to mine under 
and blow up a part of the Custom House, and 
attack them in confusion, as also the Castle. The 
miners would have been got also to mine from a 
cellar into some of the streets through which the 
army from the barracks must march. The assembly 
was at the coal quay. 

"Mary Street Barracks, sixty men. A house- 
painter's house, and one equally removed on the 
opposite side (No. 36, I believe), whose fire com- 
mands the iron gate of the barracks, without being 
exposed to the fire from it, to be occupied by 
twenty-four blunderbusses; the remainder pike- 
men, to remain near Cole's L^ne, or to be ready in 
case of rushing out to attack them. Assembly, 
Cole's Lane market, or else detached from Custom 
House body. 

" The corner house in Capel Street (it was Killy 
Kelly's) commanding Ormond Quay, and Dixon, 
the shoemaker's (or the house beyond it), which 
open suddenly on the flank of the enemy, without 
being exposed to their fire, to be occupied by 
blunderbusses ; assembly detached from Custom 
House only. 

"Lines of Defence— Beresford Street has 
six issues from Church Street, viz., Coleraine 
Street, King Street, Stirrup Lane, Mary's Lane, 
Pill Lane, and the Quay. These to be chained in 
the first instance by a body of chainmen ; double 



chains and padlocks were deposited,* and the sills 
of the doors marked. The blockade to be after- 
wards filled up; that on the quay by bringing 
up the coaches from the stand and oversetting 
them together with the butchers' blocks from 
Ormond Market. The houses over the chains to 
be occupied with hand-grenades, pistols, and stores. 
Pikemen to parade in Beresford Street, to attack 
instantly any person that might penetrate ; the 
number, 200. Assembly, Smithfield depot, where 
were 800 pikes for reinforcements. The object 
was to force the troops to march towards the 
Castle, by the other side of the water, where the 
bulk of the preparations and men to receive them 

"Merchants' Quay. — In case the army, after 
passing the Old Bridge, marched that way, 
Wogan's house and a Birmingham warehouse next 
to it, to be occupied with musketry, grenades, and 
stores ; also the leather crane at the other end of 
the quay; a beam to be before the crane, lying 
across the quay, to be fired at the approach of the 
enemy's column. A body of pikemen, in Wine- 
tavern Street instantly to rush on them in front ; 
another body in Cook Street to do the same by 
five lanes opening on their flank, and by Bridge 
Street, in their rere. Another beam in Bridge 
Street, in case of taking that route, and then Cook 
Street body to rush out instantly in front, and the 

* In the original a sketch is given of these double chains. 

9 8 


quay on the flank.* A beam in Dirty Lane ; 
main body of pikemen in Thomas Street to rush 
on them instantly on firing the beam. The body 
on the quay to attack in the rere; in case of 
repulse, Catherine's Church, Market house, and 
two houses adjacent that command that street, 
occupied with musketry. Two rocket batteries 
near the Market house, a beam before it; body 
of pikemen in Swift's Alley and that range to rush 
on their flank after the beam was fired, through 
Thomas Court, Vicker Street, and three other 
issues ; the corner houses of these issues to be 
occupied by stores and grenades ; the entire of the 
other side of the street to be occupied with stores, 
etc.; the flank on this side to be protected by a 
chain at James' Gate and Guinness' drays, etc.; the 
rere of it to be protected from Cork Street, in 
case their officer there failed, by chains across 
Rainsford Street, Crilly's yard, Meath Street, Ashe 
Street, and Francis Street. The quay body to co- 
operate by the issues before mentioned (at the 

* " There was also a chain higher up in Bridge Street, as well as 
diagonally across John Street and across New Row, as these three 
issues led into the flank of the Thomas Street line of defence, 
which it was intended only to leave open at the other flank, as it 
was meant to make them pass completely through the lines of 
defence. Wherever there were chains, the houses over them were 
occupied as above, and also such as commanded them in front. For 
this reason the Birmingham warehouse, looking down Bridge Street, 
was to be occupied if necessary. There was also to be a rocket 
factory at the crane, on the quay, and another in Bridge Street. 
The number of men, 300 ; assembly, Thomas Street depot." 



other side), the chains of which would be opened 
by us immediately. In case of further repulse, the 
house at the corner of Cutpurse Row commanding 
the lanes at each side of the Market house, the 
two houses in High Street, commanding that open, 
and the corner houses of Castle Street command- 
ing Skinner Row (now Christchurch Place), to be 
successively occupied. In case of a final retreat, 
the routes to be thus — Cork Street to Templeogue ; 
New Street, Rathfarnham ; and Camden Street 
department. The bridges of the Liffey to be 
covered six feet deep with boards full of long 
nails bound down by two iron bars, with spikes 
eighteen inches long, driven through them into the 
pavement, to stop a column of cavalry, or even 

Emmet adds: "The whole of this plan was 
given up by me for the want of means, except the 
Castle, and lines of defence ; for I expected three 
hundred Wexford, four hundred Kildare, and two 
hundred Wicklow men, all of whom had fought 
before, to begin the surprises at this side of the 
water, and by the preparations for defence, so as to 
give time to the town to assemble." 

Before dealing with the remainder of the letter 
(which is signed " R. E.") describing the causes of 
the failure, it will be well to revert to the recollec- 
tions of Bernard Duggan, David Fitzgerald, and 
others as to the preparations for the insurrection. 
Emmet's plan was well thought out, and cost him 
many weeks if not months of anxious effort. He 



was constantly visiting the various places referred 
to in the plan, and as far as it went on paper, it was 
admirable. But the lack of money to bring it to 
completeness was the main cause of its failure. 
Duggan's recollections are perhaps somewhat 
tainted by his treachery, but what he says is not 
anywhere inherently unlikely. In any case some 
of his statements are worth giving — they refer 
partly to the preparations for the rising and partly 
to the actual outbreak. He says : 

" Mr. Emmet began his active preparations on 
21st March, 1803, having got several of the most 
confidential men of 1798 to join him, and to assist 
in the work carried on in the different depots, and 
in other capacities." (Duggan goes on to give a 
list of names of the smaller people engaged with 
Emmet.) "In the afternoon of the 23rd (July) 
Mr. Emmet sent a sum of sixty guineas to pay for 
some arms, blunderbusses, and pistols, which he 
had bought in Dame Street, and was in immediate 
want of. One of Emmet's confidential men 
declined going, on account of fatigue ; and then 
Michael M'Daniel, the man who was in the 
Patrick Street depot when the explosion took 
place, when making the fuses of rockets (and 
drinking at the same time), offered to go for the 
arms. He took the sixty guineas, and never 
returned more to the depot with the money or 
arms. . . . 

" The rockets were first tried near Irishtown by 
Emmet and some of his companions ; they went 



in a horizontal direction a great distance. General 
Coote was the first man who employed them in 
India — Emmet told me this, and that he had 
improved on them ; and another has improved on 
Emmet's, and Congreve has improved on both. 
The rockets were of the same nature as those 
called Congreve rockets, but not so perfect. . . . 

" Counsellor Hamilton was appointed, with one 
Smith, to raise the county of Fermanagh and 
county Cavan ; Russell and James Hope were 
appointed to the county Down for the same 
purpose ; Mr. Nicholas Gray, an attorney, the 
aide-de-camp of B. B. Harvey at the battle of New 
Ross, for the county Wexford; Dvvyer for the 
county Wicklow; Mr. Athy for the county Gal- 
way; Quigley, Mahon, and Wylde for Kildare ; 
others for different counties, all depending on the 
taking of Dublin. The quantity of arms and 
ammunition was very great ; a great quantity of 
ball cartridges, packed in chests, with various sorts 
of combustibles, about 70,000 pikes and muskets, 
blunderbusses and pistols. A quantity of these 
were dispersed among different persons through- 
out the country, as well as in Dublin ; combustibles 
of various descriptions were prepared to explode 
in the streets among the troops, when assembled. 
Most of the powder and ball was got from Mr. 
Hinchey's, but as for the money, I cannot tell how 
or where it was obtained. Mr. Hinchey was a 
grocer, and lived at the corner of Cuffe Street, and 
was licensed to sell powder ; he got the balls run, 


or cast, in his own place, and a Mr. Byrne, of New 
Street, gave a good deal of ball." 

"All these preparations," proceeds Duggans 
statement, which reads peculiarly after what we 
have read of the Government's knowledge of the 
matter, "were kept a profound secret from the 
Government and their adherents, until the very 
day of the turn-out. On the Saturday night week 
previous to the turn-out, an explosion of some 
combustibles took place in the depot of Patrick 
Street, which gave some alarm in the neighbour- 
hood. Major Sirr came to examine the house — 
previous to his coming, our friends removed the 
remaining powder, arms, etc., and all matters 
which were movable in the place, notwithstanding 
some obstruction given by the watchmen. Other 
arms were secreted in the premises, and were 
not discovered until some time afterwards. It 
w T as concluded that the affair was only some 
chemical process which had accidentally caused 
the explosion. This unfortunate occurrence caused 
a premature rising, which proved abortive. It 
must be here remarked that those in charge of 
the depot in Patrick Street did not know or 
frequent the depot in Marshalsea Lane, but those 
in Marshalsea Lane had recourse to the depot in 
Patrick Street. Mr. Emmet had three plans that 
would effect a revolution without bloodshed, if put 
into execution at any period ; and the reason that 
none of them were resorted to was, the timidity 
of his own staff or advisers, the general officers 


of districts and counties — such as Lord Edward 
Fitzgerald had to contend with. 

"A few evenings before the outbreak, I was 
informed by Robert Emmet I would be called on 
a very important service — namely, to make a 
prisoner of the commander-in-chief, who was in 
the habit of walking very early every morning on 
the Circular Road, in the neighbourhood of Kil- 
mainham. I was to be accompanied by another 
person, and six more of our associates were to be 
stationed at a short distance, and to be ready, 
when called on, to lend assistance to me and my 
companion. We were to arrest the commander- 
in-chief, and inform him we had a writ against 
him, and that we were sheriffs officers, and by 
compulsion or otherwise, we were to force him into 
a carriage, and carry him off to Mr. Emmet's. 
Emmet's staff, from timidity, upset this plan like 
all his others. I was told that night, when I had 
made all necessary preparations, that the plan had 
been abandoned. 

"To my knowledge Mr. Emmet had secret 
friends connected with the Government, who gave 
him intelligence of all the movements about the 
Castle. Mr. Emmet, during the preparations 
making in the depot, had a house in Butterfield 
Lane, near Rathfarnham ; the officers of the 
counties and several gentlemen often had inter- 
views with him there, but none of those connected 
with the depots, unless occasionally to carry a 
message to him, went there. Mr. Emmet went 


often to the head depot — both by day and by night 
the writer was often called to attend him, to act as 
a bodyguard through the streets, walking on the 
other side of the way as he went along, and 
occasionally some men of the former were ready 
at a moment's notice to defend Mr. Emmet 
Previous to the turn-out, Mr. Emmet remained 
almost entirely in the depots, continually seeing 
regimentals making, writing proclamations, and 
receiving communications from the officers of the 
different counties." 




In the fourth volume of the " Memoirs and 
Correspondence of Lord Castlereagh," there are 
some curious and interesting documents concern- 
ing the insurrection, portion of which may be used 
here. The papers are reports drawn up by Mr. 
Marsden, the Under-Secretary, and transmitted to 
the Lord Lieutenant. The first describes the 
explosion at Patrick Street, which occurred on the 
16th of July, and led to a premature outbreak. 
Marsden says : 

"The explosion in Patrick Street on July 16th 
was not sufficiently loud to occasion a very general 
observation of it ; and it appears that even the 
windows of the room where it took place were not 
broken by it. To prevent suffocation, the persons 
inside broke the glass, and Keenan, who is since 
dead, cut himself so deeply by running his 
arm through a pane, that the effusion of blood 
principally occasioned his death. The danger of 
fire was what chiefly excited notice, and a fire 
engine was sent for. On its arrival, the persons in 
the house refused to admit it, and turned away 
the men who belonged to it ; and it was the 
complaint of these men to a peace officer which 


first excited suspicion of some improper proceed- 
ings in the house. 

" Two men were wounded, one of them, Keenan, 
so badly, that he died very soon, and gave no 
account of how the accident happened. The 
other, Byrne, a labouring man, was taken into 
custody. The peace officers made a search in the 
house, and found saltpetre and other ingredients 
for making gunpowder, a machine for bruising 
saltpetre, about a hundred ball cartridges, and some 
pounds weight of bullets, several short poles, about 
three feet long, the use of which was not known 
(they were for jointed pikes), three bayonets, 
not any pike-heads, nor any firearms. Enough 
was discovered to excite considerable suspicion; 
the house was known to belong to M'Intosh, and 
search was immediately made for him, but he 
could not be found. Byrne was taken to the 
Superintendent Magistrate's office, and closely 
examined. He protested that he had only worked 
as a common labourer, carrying mortar to build 
up a wall, and that he had been employed there 
only from the day preceding. 

" It appeared to me to be an object of consider- 
able importance to get information from this man, 
and therefore, instead of sending him to the gaol 
or common infirmary, I had him put under the 
particular care of Surgeon Henthorn, with par- 
ticular injunctions as to his being kept separate ; 
and the surgeon was enjoined to pay him the 
strictest attention, and, if possible, to get a dis- 



covery from him. The surgeon, as well as a peace 
officer had several conversations with him, if 
possible, to learn further particulars; but he never 
deviated from his first story, which there is now 
reason to think was true. 

" On the day after the explosion, a report was 
made by two of the watch, that, on the preceding 
night, they had followed two men carrying a cask ; 
that on being asked by the watch where they were 
going, they answered, 1 Come along with us, and 
you shall see;' that they rested the cask on the 
window of a man of the name of Palmer, who lives 
at the corner of the Coombe and New Street, who 
opened the door of his house on a private signal 
being given, and, seeing the watchmen along with 
the men who had charge of the cask, he shut his 
door and walked out of the street. The cask fell 
down, and, some ball cartridges and flints falling 
out of it, the two men ran away, and left it in the 
possession of the watchmen, who, after carrying it 
some way towards their watchhouse, were stopped 
by a party of men, some having arms, who rescued 
it from them. The watchmen were joined by 
others, and assistance was demanded from the 
guard-house at the Castle; but as only three 
soldiers were there, and none of them could quit 
their post, the party escaped." 

Marsden goes on to explain that Palmer was 
arrested, but had to be liberated, as they could 
get nothing satisfactory from him, although they 
had the gravest suspicions as to his complicity 


in the affair. Marsden adds : " A further search 
was made in the house in Patrick Street by Major 
Sirr — a few more ball cartridges were found." 

In a second statement made to the Lord Lieu- 
tenant, and signed "A. M." (that is, Alexander 
Marsden), there is some valuable material about 
the insurrection and the preparations made by the 
Government to deal with it : 

" However uncertain it had been," says Marsden, 
" during some days preceding Saturday, July 23rd, 
that a rising was to take place on that day (in a 
paper already delivered to your Excellency, I have 
stated the causes of this uncertainty), yet, on the 
morning of that day, the information received left 
no longer any doubt of what was intended. 

" On coming to the Castle, at some time between 
half-past eleven and twelve o'clock on that day, I 
received several communications, some of them 
secret, others from persons who had come to some 
knowledge of the intentions, and in some instances, 
of the actual movements of the disaffected, which 
made it manifest that the peace of the city must 
be very seriously disturbed in the course of the 
ensuing night. Although I conceived it to be of 
the utmost importance to avoid spreading an 
alarm until it was certain that danger existed, the 
only consideration now was by what means the 
attempt, hitherto so improbable, but now so 
imminent, was to be defeated ; and as the civil 
power, at no time very efficient in Dublin, was 
for this purpose wholly inadequate, I thought it 


my principal duty, after apprising your Excellency 
of the probable danger, to take care that the 
garrison of Dublin, consisting of near 3,000 men, 
should be informed that their services might be 
required in the course of the night. 

"The Commander of the Forces, I knew, was 
to be with your Excellency, by appointment, on 
other business, in the Phoenix Park at two o'clock 
on that day ; and at the same time that I wrote to 
your Excellency, informing you of the apprehen- 
sions which I entertained, I recommended to you 
to bring General Fox to the Castle in your Ex- 
cellency's carriage, stating, at the same time, ' that 
I made this request on no light grounds/ At the 
same time, I wrote to Sir Charles Asgill, who 
commanded in the district of Dublin, requesting 
him to call upon me at the Castle." 

Marsden then goes on to say that he had the 
interview with the Viceroy and General Fox at 
the Castle, and communicated to them his reasons 
for thinking there would be a rising that night. 
If one were to judge matters by the childlike and 
bland statements of the Under-Secretary, one 
would imagine that he was not then letting the 
Lord-Lieutenant into a secret which he himself 
knew for months — namely, that an insurrection 
had been maturing for a long time, and that 
the time had arrived when it could be effectually 
grappled with. Marsden proceeds : 

"Among other things, I recollect having stated 
that a person in the north of Ireland, who formerly 


gave information, had, by letter, assured me that 
Dublin and Belfast were to be attacked at the 
same time on the Saturday or Sunday following ; 
and also that a gentleman* who had come from 
the North, informed me he had heard the same 
thing. To the first I did not attach implicit 
credit, for reasons which I then explained ; and 
Mr. Atkinson had his intelligence two or three 
times removed. I mentioned, however, that a 
person who was in the secrets of the disaffected, 
and with whom I frequently communicated, had 
come to me very soon after I reached the Castle 
that morning, in much alarm, and assured me that 
the danger was imminent. I had also been in- 
formed by a magistrate that a priest had given 
him similar intelligence. I remember having 
stated what Mr. Clarke of Palmerstown, who 
employed some hundred men in his cotton manu- 
factory, had communicated respecting the riotous 
disposition of his men, and their determination to 
quit his work, and to march into Dublin that day, 
having previously, in the morning, at an unusual 
hour, insisted on being paid their wages. 

"To impede this attempt, I urged the necessity 
of strengthening the post at Chapelizod, a village 
which lay between Palmerstown and Dublin. 
In this General Fox concurred, and orders, it 
appeared, were given to have it done. The state 
of the Pigeon House was also talked of. It was 
known to General Fox that the garrison of Naas 

* A Mr. Atkinson. 



had been under arms the night before, from an 
apprehension of being attacked by the towns- 
people, who had quitted the place. These, I was 
informed by others as well as by Colonel Wolfe 
and Mr. Aylmer, had come, some into and others 
towards Dublin. The latter gentleman had left 
Naas at eight o'clock in the morning ; the town 
was then deserted by its inhabitants. As he came 
to Dublin, he had not seen any men, but had met 
many women going from thence. The fact was 
beyond question, and so I stated it to be, that an 
extraordinary number of people had come into 
town. This circumstance scarcely left a decision 
with their leaders, who, I think I mentioned, were 
at that time divided in their councils whether or 
not an attempt should be made.* Your Ex- 
cellency and General Fox paid every attention to 
this statement, occasionally making observations 
upon it. It was impossible to represent the extent 
of the disturbance which it was supposed would 
take place. 

" No apprehension was entertained of any 
degree of success of the insurgents, on account of 
the several military posts stationed in the city, 
and from the strength of the Castle guard and its 
vicinity to the barracks in Parliament Street, 
where the 62nd Regiment was stationed. It could 

* In a note attached to this sentence, it is stated : "It is now 
known that it was only on the night of July 22nd the rising was 
determined upon, and that at two o'clock on the 23rd, the Kildare 
leaders declined to act, and left the city." 



not be imagined that the Castle or the public 
offices in its neighbourhood were to be attacked. 
The impression which it was meant to convey to 
General Fox was, that disturbances would, in all 
probability, take place, and particularly on the 
side of the avenues which led from Naas and 

Marsden continues his report, including in it 
an account of the actual insurrection, which will 
be referred to later. In a third and somewhat 
disingenuous document furnished by him, there 
are a few passages describing Emmet's prepara- 
tions, which are apposite at this stage. It is 
inaccurate in some particulars, and of course its 
inferences are often to be discounted : 

" It is now known that the design of the attempt 
which was afterwards made in July last, was 
conceived in France about the middle of the last 
winter. . . . Encouraged no doubt by the French 
Government (who, as well as some of his associates, 
were probably unacquainted with the whole of his 
object), the sanguine disposition of the younger 
Emmet, who was last winter in Paris, led him to 
conceive a plan for effecting a revolution in Ire- 
land, separating it from England, and establishing 
an independent power in this country, capable of 
foreign relations, before the French should have 
their plans matured for an invasion and a conquest.* 

" With this view, there is reason to think that he 

* There can be no doubt that Emmet disbelieved in French 
sincerity, and especially doubted Napoleon. 


communicated with several of the exiled Irish 
then in France, and particularly with his brother, 
T. A. Emmet, and M'Nevin. The growing pros- 
perity of Ireland,* since the extinction of the 
rebellion of 1798, might be supposed sufficient to 
have discouraged such an enterprise ; and to those 
who actually knew the country it must have ap- 
peared hopeless, even with the aid of a considerable 
foreign force. There is reason to think that the 
ill-judged exaggerations of mail robberies, and 
particularly of the disorderly scenes which took 
place in the county of Limerick, were relied upon by 
Mr. Emmet as sufficient proofs of a disposition 
ready to act, and generally pervading the country. 
Many exiled Irish were then on the Continent, but 
it appears that Mr. Emmet did not succeed in 
getting more than Russell and Quigley to engage 
in the expedition to Ireland. . . . 

" The report of Russell's return attracted atten- 
tion ; and Quigley's having gone into the county 
of Kildare soon made his arrival public. Large 
rewards were offered for his apprehension, and 
repeated communications had with the gentlemen 
of the county on the means of having him taken. 
He remained but a few days in the country, and 
was afterwards secreted in the depot, which he 
scarcely at any time left until the rising in July, 
and, when he did leave it, it was only by night. . . . 

" Mr. Emmet was a very young man ; he had 
been expelled from the University of Dublin during 

* ! ! ! 




the time of the Rebellion of 1798, for seditious prac- 
tices. He fled from the country, and had not, until 
this year, returned. He conceived the design of 
providing arms for those whose constancy he 
relied upon ; and full of the opinion that the 
disposition to revolt was as strong amongst the 
lower orders of the people as in his own mind, he 
relied upon it that the whole would be effected, if he 
could secure a magazine from which, on a sudden, 
the mob might be armed. The scene of this 
exploit was fixed in Dublin, and although he held 
communications with parts of Ireland more distant, 
it does not appear that they were organized, or 
that he had made connections with more than a 
very few of the rebels of 1798. 

" Having a mind much turned to military affairs, 
and being a student in chemistry, he prepared a 
system of tactics, and at the same time con- 
structed machines (certainly complex and ill- 
adapted) in which gunpowder was wrought into 
its most pernicious forms ; but he seems to have 
neglected the more obvious and certain modes of 
giving force to an effort which could alone be 
made by the rudest and most inexpert hands. 
For the purpose of forming this magazine, a ware- 
house was taken in a yard, in an obscure lane, in a 
populous but unobserved quarter of the city. A 
carpenter in Emmet's confidence was the ostensible 
proprietor ; and in this yard and warehouse were 
prepared the pikes and ammunition which were 
afterwards to be delivered to the mob. Quigley, 



on returning from Kildare, where he stayed only a 
few days, concealed himself in this depot, as it was 
termed, and was out of it only three or four times 
until the insurrection broke out But a very few 
were trusted with the secret of this depot (not 
more than eight persons), about one-half of whom 
remained constantly in it, working with their own 
hands in constructing pikes, and preparing other 
implements for the intended insurrection. While 
the favourite object of constructing this depot was 
thus forwarded by Emmet's zealous friends, he 
also made connections among the disaffected here, 
who were known to himself or to his brother on 
the former occasion. Soon after Lord Whitworth's 
return, in May, it was perceived that some cabal 
had commenced among men who were before 
suspected, and whose conduct soon attracted a 
stricter observation. One of this party held a 
direct communication with Government, and meet- 
ings and conversations were often reported, but 
they led to nothing material ; no organization or 
system was attempted ; no persons who could be 
seized or detained by law could be discovered, and 
nothing but general expression of hopes, and an 
increased rumour of danger, could be learned. At 
the same time, the reports from the country, with 
the exception of Kildare (and even from thence 
they were not bad) were of the most favourable 
kind ; and, as far as it was possible to reason upon 
the apparent dispositions of the people, a revolt 
could not be considered as immediate, unless in 


the event of a successful attempt at invasion by 
the enemy. 

"It is manifest, however, that Emmet staked 
his whole game on the depot, and trusted himself 
but little to any but those concerned in it, who 
were very few in number. He lived himself a few 
miles out of town, towards the mountains, where 
he occasionally saw his friends from Dublin and 
communicated with others, who were in connec- 
tion with the rebel Dwyer in the mountains. He 
occasionally came into town, and visited the depot, 
but this happened very rarely until the week 
preceding the insurrection. 

" Another house was taken by a carpenter, 
where a few pike handles were made of a parti- 
cular construction, and some combustible matter 
for rockets (and not gunpowder, as was at one 
time supposed), from hence such articles were 
conveyed to the grand depot; and from other 
places it would seem that ammunition was also 
sent there through the medium of an hostler* of 
an inn which adjoined the depot, and who was 
admitted into their confidence. It is a matter 
much to be regretted, and almost complained of, 
that this depot was not early discovered by the 
immediate agents of the Government, or by the 
police. It can only be accounted for by the great 
secrecy with which it was conducted ; that the 
persons admitted to it were closely attached to 
their leader or to his cause; that living for the 

* Fleming, who gave evidence at Emmet's trial. 


II 7 

most part within side of it, they avoided observa- 
tion, and that intercourse which, by the most 
accidental circumstances, leads to detection ; but 
particularly Mr. Emmet had an advantage which 
few conspirators are so fortunate as to possess — he 
had a command of money ; his father died in 
December last, and left him a sum of about £2,000. 
This money was paid to him in March, and there 
is reason to think that the whole was expended 
before the middle of July. He was thus his own 
treasurer; he trusted only those whom he pre- 
ferred, and he was not obliged to sell his con- 
fidence to those who subscribed a £20 or a £$O y 
as was the case in the former rebellion. . . . 

" In the counties of Ireland, with the exception 
of Kildare and Wicklow, it now appears that very 
few had been gained over by the conspirators. In 
the North, it is evident that but little preparation 
was made. Russell distrusted many of his old 
friends, and did not apply to them. He soon dis- 
covered that, among the Protestants of the North, 
his plans met no encouragement; which made him 
resort to the Defenders, or Catholics, and his very 
limited success with them has been sufficiently 
exposed. According to Ouigley's testimony, no- 
thing had been done in Connaught. With the 
people of Wexford Emmet had no communica- 
tions; he was offered support from but one barony 
,of that county, and he gave up the hope of a 
rising in that quarter. Both Emmet and Quigley 
concur in stating that Meath (a county by no 


means considered as secure) would not rise. In 
the midland counties, and in Limerick and Cork, 
persons resided with whom Emmet communicated, 
and who were informed of the intended rising a 
few days before it took place. Little exertion, 
however, had been made to prepare for a rising in 
those places. These friends at a distance served as 
points of communication, while it would seem that 
the intermediate spaces had not been occupied. It 
was assumed, however, and positively not without 
sufficient reason, that, had the attack in Dublin 
succeeded, risings would have taken place in many 
other quarters. 

"To aid the attack in Dublin, it now appears 
that only Kildare, Wicklow, and Wexford were 
relied upon. From the latter county, Emmet 
supposed that 300 came in, but it does not appear 
in any way that such was the case. Dwyer, from 
Wicklow, was to have aided ; but, by the mistake 
of a messenger, or more probably from doubts 
entertained by Dwyer of the success of the enter- 
prise, no move took place in that quarter. From 
Kildare many came into Dublin, as well as from 
the small towns which lay on that side of Dublin. 
As Mr. Emmet's object was to effect a revolution 
in Ireland, and to get possession of the country 
before the French should attempt an invasion, it 
was necessary for him to bring his projects speedily 
into action. An accident that happened in Patrick 
Street, which was a sort of workshop to the depot, 
did, however, accelerate the execution of his design. 


In a room, where some combustible matter was 
preparing, a small quantity of gunpowder took fire, 
and the explosion attracted the attention of the 
neighbourhood. ... In the week which followed 
this explosion, Emmet determined to attempt an 
insurrection. He sent into the country notices to 
this effect, and concurrent circumstances indicated 
that something was speedily to be attempted by 
the disaffected. . . . The arrival in town in the 
course of the night of the 22nd and morning of 
the 23rd, of many people from the side of Kildare, 
and information privately given to Government, 
and which also flowed in from various quarters, 
left no longer any doubt that the attempt was to 
be made. The appearance of the people coming 
in from the country on Friday evening decided 
Emmet as to the course to be pursued on the next 
day. He was by no means satisfied that his 
preparations were sufficiently advanced; he had 
spent all his money, and had not got a fresh 
supply; he was not confident as to the number of 
his men, and he wanted further time to complete 
his complicated machine. It was, however, too late 
to recede, and he decided upon a prompt effort 
against the opinion of some of his associates. At 
two o'clock on Saturday the persons from Kildare 
on whom he most relied met him at an inn in 
Thomas Street. They required him to satisfy 
them as to his means of being able to go on with 
the insurrection ; they required him to show them 
the fire-arms and the men, which he could not do ; 


and, not being satisfied with a speech which he 
made to them, they quitted him, to return home 
to the country. Some remained behind, and many 
of the lower orders were mixed with the Dublin 
mob in the excesses of the night. 

"At nine o'clock, as near as it can be ascer- 
tained, Emmet and his associates sallied forth 
from the depot in Mass Lane. Pikes were de- 
livered out in large quantities from this secret 
magazine, but they wanted men and order, and a 
plan which was practicable with such raw troops 
and rude implements. Emmet and his party 
paraded with their swords drawn, and firing pistols 
in Thomas Street. He could count but eighty 
followers at the time he left the depot, and, when 
he reached the Market House in Thomas Street, 
nearly the whole had deserted him, except about 
twenty. Upon seeing himself thus abandoned, he 
quitted the street, and with ten or twelve of his 
lieutenant-generals and colonels, as he fancied to 
call them (himself and some others being in green 
uniforms), he proceeded by Francis Street out of 
the town, and to the mountains. " 




A PAPER in Emmet's handwriting was found in 
the chief depot after the failure of his attempt, 
which contained these words : 

"I have little time to look at the thousand 
difficulties which still lie between me and the 
completion of my wishes ; that those difficulties 
will likewise disappear I have ardent, and, I trust, 
rational hopes; but if it is not to be the case, I 
thank God for having gifted me with a sanguine 
disposition. To that disposition I run from reflec- 
tion ; and if my hopes are without foundation — if 
a precipice is opening under my feet from which 
duty will not suffer me to run back, I am grateful 
for that sanguine disposition which leads me to 
the brink and throws me down, while my eyes are 
still raised to the visions of happiness that my 
fancy formed in the air." 

Emmet had intended to defer the insurrection 
till the month of August, when he confidently 
hoped England would be attacked on her own 
shores, but the Patrick Street explosion, and 
certain imprudent actions on the part of some 
subordinates made him conclude that perhaps it 
would be dangerous to delay the affair, there being 



hourly peril that the authorities would swoop down 
on one or other of the depots. 

Unfortunately for his sanguine hopes, the leaders 
were not of one mind ; some doubted the ex- 
pediency of striking before all the plans were fully 
matured, others objected that several of the plans 
were not feasible. As already stated, the Kildare 
men declined to act, and the Wicklow men did not 
get sufficient notice. Madden says that the former 
were told by some traitor that the attempt was to 
be postponed, and they departed from Dublin 
at five o'clock in the evening of the 23rd of July. 
Parties of Wexford men were at several points, 
awaiting the arranged-for signal of a rocket, but 
no signal w r as made. 

In Duggan's recollections of the insurrection, 
placed on record by Madden, it is stated that 
" Dwyer promised to march down from the moun- 
tains with 500 at least that evening, and appear 
near the city ; likewise Mr. Nicholas Gray promised 
to come with a large force of Wexford men, 
consisting of thousands, by a different direction. 
All these persons failed to do so at the time 
appointed. In the course of the day of the 23rd, 
it was whispered about that there was to be a 
general rising that night in Dublin. The alarm 
reached the Castle." Duggan goes on to say that 
Henry Howley, who was to have brought one of 
the double coaches which was "to convey Mr. 
Emmet and a number of his more determined 
followers inside the Castle Yard," was on his way 



to the rendezvous, and was passing over Queen's 
Bridge, when he saw a countryman and a soldier 
fighting. He stopped the coach to see the result 
of the encounter, when an officer named Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel Lyde Browne interfered on behalf 
of the soldier. Howley immediately leaped out of 
the coach and called out "Fair play for the 
countryman," whereupon Colonel Browne drew 
his sword and was immediately shot dead by 
Howley.* Seeing a sergeant's guard coming over 
the bridge, Howley thought it better to escape, 
and consequently fled, leaving the coach there, 
"which," adds Duggan, "caused a terrible dis- 
appointment to Mr. Emmet, who was anxiously 
waiting for the coaches, as Howley was the person 
appointed to procure them." 

Emmet's idea was, says Duggan, to seize on the 
Privy Council, who were expected to be meeting 
in the Castle that evening. The chief object was, 
however, to secure the Viceroy and his family, and 
hold them as hostages. " Plenty of people," says 
Duggan, "were ready to pour into the Castle, 
once possession was gained of the courtyards by 
Emmet and his party. Howley was to bring the 
coaches one after the other from Essex Bridge 
stand along the quay, and over the Queen's Bridge. 
The drivers were to be dressed in liveries. 

" Had the Castle been seized, the country was 
sufficiently prepared — all depended on the Castle. 

* Who was afterwards executed for it. 


• . . This disappointment of the coaches, together 
with the failure on the part of the Wicklow 
and Wexford men — for Mr. Emmet counted on 
Dwyer's party and also on Mr. Gray's — determined 
him to abandon the depot, and make the best he 
could of such an embarrassing situation, finding he 
could not conceal the business any longer. . . . 
At all times, Mr. Emmet seemed cool, tranquil, 
and determined ; even to the last moment of my 
seeing him, which was at seven o'clock that even- 
ing of the 23rd July. He appeared to be confident 
of success ; he was never light or thoughtless in his 
manner, nor absent, nor agitated in his mind. He 
talked familiarly with the men, but still with 
something of seriousness — nothing of jocularity. 
The men never received any pay for their services 
— they all acted for the cause, and not for money 
— their diet and lodging, and sometimes only the 
latter, was their sole remuneration. The people 
had great confidence in him ; they would venture 
their lives for him." 

David Fitzgerald, already quoted, gives in his 
reminiscences some interesting particulars about 
Emmet and his relations with Mr. Philip Long, 
who had advanced money for the cause. Mr. 
Fitzgerald speaks in the third person. 

"The 23rd of July/' he says, "Mr. Long came 
to the office in Crow Street, from the country, 
about twelve o'clock at mid-day. He said to 
Fitzgerald, ' There will be a rising to-night.' He 
then went to his desk, and searched among his 



papers for his will, which he sent to Mr. Patten to 
keep for him. Mr. Long told Fitzgerald there 
were three separate attacks to be made — one on 
the Pigeon House, another on the Castle, and one on 
the Park battery. There were 1,500 men to come 
in from Kildare; vast numbers from other parts ; 
but most reliance was placed on the men of Kil- 
dare. The Kildare men were to be formed in 
Thomas Street, and marched to the Castle, which 
was to be attacked and seized on. This plan was 
objected to by Fitzgerald. He said he could not 
see what use there could be in parading along 
Thomas Street — why not begin the attack from 
Palace Street, where there was a waste house, 
close to the Castle Yard. This was, however, no 
time for new proposals. 

"The expectation of the country rising generally, 
when the Castle was taken, was not an idle one. 
That day a number of strange people came to Mr. 
Long's. . . . Emmet had no knowledge of the 
world. He placed trust in every man ; but he 
was the most honest and single-minded of human 
beings. Mr. Long was an excellent man in council, 
a good speaker, a good reasoner, and a good 
writer, a strong-minded man ; but in action he 
wanted nerve, he was easily frightened. He was 
most devotedly attached to his country, and most 
honest to its cause — he would have made any 
sacrifice for it. . . . 

" On that night (the 23rd) sixteen of the leaders 
were supping with Hevey, in Thomas Street, 



opposite Marshalsea Lane,* when the firing com- 
menced. In fact, when they ought to have been with 
their men, they were carousing with Hevey. ... At 
half-past seven in the evening of the 23rd of July, 
Fitzgerald walked through the Castle Yard. There 
were no preparations ; the place was perfectly quiet 
and silent; the gates were wide open ! . . . 

" On the 23rd of July, Robert Emmet sent to 
Mr. Long for ^"500. Mr. Long sent Fitzgerald to 
Robert Fyan, an eminent merchant then living on 
Usher's Quay, for the money, which was due by 
Fyan to Long. Much delay ensued in giving a draft 
for the amount; and when given, the bank was 
closed — the business hours were passed. Fyan 
knew the runners of the bank ; and he went with 
Fitzgerald to the runners' office, where they are 
accustomed to be after bank hours, to receive pay- 
ment of bills before handed over to the public notary. 
At six o'clock precisely, Fitzgerald received the 
money, and was just going out of the bank, when 
one of the runners said news of an intended insur- 
rection had reached Government ; the guards were 
doubled. The Castle gates, nevertheless, were 
wide open at half-past seven. In consequence 
of this intelligence, the money was not taken to 
Emmet, and he never received it. . . . Emmet's 
intention was not to commence for some months 
later, waiting till the greater part of the troops 
should be drawn off for the French war. He 

* Madden and others print Mass Lane, but the reference seems to 
be to Marshalsea Lane. 



counted on the accomplishment of Bonaparte's 
threat to invade England. 

" Mr. Long, after the explosion, hid himself for 
some time in the house of William Cole, a shoe- 
maker, on Ormond Quay. ... He was arrested 
three weeks after the outbreak, 13th August, 1803. 
He was in gaol two years and seven months, 
never having been brought to trial. He was 
liberated the 8th of March, 1806."* 

About nine o'clock on the night of the 23rd, 
when Emmet was in the chief depot preparing to 
sally forth, Quigley rushed in with the statement 
(which was a false one, as subsequently appeared), 
" We are all lost, the army is coming on us." 
Emmet, who had determined to hold back the 
people, and postpone the rising for a time, now 
saw that there was nothing to be done but to meet 
the threatened danger. He accordingly donned 
his green and gold uniform, gave orders for the 
distribution of the arms, sent up a rocket, and went 
into Thomas Street with about eighty men, who 
were speedily reinforced by as many more. 

The Mr. John Fisher, quoted in a previous 
chapter, says : " I saw him on the night of the 
23rd of July, 1803 ; was then looking out of my 
own drawing-room window at 89 Thomas Street ; 
an oil lamp was lighting immediately under me, a 
little on one side. Emmet came up, a crowd 
following him, principally Kildare men ; heard 

* He died, unmarried, in 1S14, aged 42. He was a native of 


him say to the men, ' Come on, boys, we '11 take 
the Castle;' saw him then pass by the Market 
House, which lay between Francis Street and 
John Street." The men led by Emmet were 
an undisciplined crowd, some of them had been 
freely imbibing, and they proceeded along in great 
disorder, Emmet and a faithful henchman named 
Stafford (whom David Fitzgerald says was a born 
leader and conspirator) vainly trying to get them 
to close their ranks. A Mr. Leech, of the Custom 
House, was driving by at this time in a hackney 
coach, and was dragged out by the mob and 
piked, receiving a serious wound from which, how- 
ever, he subsequently recovered. 

The crowd of men, now inflamed by passion 
and in some cases by drink, were interrupted by 
the arrival of another coach, which contained Lord 
Kilwarden, his daughter, and his nephew, the Rev. 
Richard Wolfe. The Chief Justice, who was one 
of the most humane judges of that ferocious 
period, had been staying at Newlands, County 
Kildare, and had that day been summoned to a 
meeting of the Privy Council, and was then on his 
way to the Castle. His carriage had reached that 
part of Thomas Street which leads to Vicar Street, 
when it was stopped by the infuriated crowd. 
Lord Kilwarden called out. " It is I, Kilwarden, 
Chief Justice of the King's Bench," when a man, 
said to be named Shannon, rushed forward, and 
plunged his pike into the judge's body, saying at 
the same time, "You are the man I want." A 



portmanteau in the carriage was then seized and 
emptied, and the body of Lord Kilwarden dragged 
out. His nephew, who made an endeavour to 
escape, was next killed, but no attempt was made 
to injure Miss Wolfe, who remained in the carriage 
in a state of great terror. Emmet, it appears, had 
reached the Cornmarket by this time, but hearing 
that the rear-guard of his body had attacked a 
lady and gentleman in a carriage, he halted his 
men, hastened back to the scene of the murder, 
and conducted Miss Wolfe to a place of safety. 
He was greatly disgusted at this wanton murder 
by the mob, and began to feel that he had already 
lost control of his following. 

Mr. John Fisher, who has been recently men- 
tioned, after describing in his recollections the 
murder of Colonel Browne, goes on to say : " A 
man named Parker, one of the Liberty Rangers, 
met the same fate from the insurgents ; and a 
Mr. Edmondson, a linen-draper of High Street ; 
they (the mob) also piked Mr. Henry Doolittle, a 
silk-mercer of Lower Bridge Street, but the latter 
recovered from his wounds. When the barracks 
in the Coombe were assailed by the insurgents, it 
" * believed about sixty of the Fusiliers were killed, 
ana lhat the Government made an erroneous return 
of the loss sustained by the military. . . . Mr. Fisher 
(who is speaking in the third person) saw the 
carriage of Lord Kilwarden assailed, and saw the 
pikes of the rebels round it, brandishing in all 
directions; when the rebels fled, and Mr. Fisher 



ventured forth into the street, he ascertained that 
the carriage was Lord Kilwarden's ; that his 
nephew had been killed ; and his lordship, badly 
wounded, had been carried to the watch-house in 
Vicar Street. Mr. Fisher, on hearing that some 
wine was wanted for him, brought over a bottle of 
his own port, and pouring some into a glass put 
it to his lordship's lips, but he barely touched it ; 
he was evidently dying. Some of the military, at 
that moment, were vowing vengeance on the 
people for the atrocious act committed on his lord- 
ship. Lord Kilwarden heard their words, and 
raising himself up, said deliberately, ' Let no man 
suffer without a fair trial.' Mr. Fisher was then 
supporting him, and was assisted in so doing by 
some other person. . . . His lordship lived for 
about an hour after he had been carried to the 

In a pamphlet entitled "The Insurrection of 
the 23rd of July, 1803," published in Dublin in 
that year, and clearly (from the initials H. B. C. 
attached to the preface) written by Henry Brereton 
Code, a Castle writer, whose name is on the Secret 
Service List, it is stated that the insurgents num- 
bered 300 altogether, and that the insurrection 
never extended further than the lower end of 
Francis Street, near the Coombe, from the point 
in Thomas Street, near the depot, where it may 
be said to have originated. Mr. Marsden, the 
Under-Secretary, in his report, says : 

"At about eleven o'clock, an account was 


brought to the Castle that a firing had com- 
menced. This was from a party of the 21st 
regiment, belonging to the barracks in Cork 
Street, which had been sent to escort an officer 
of the regiment from his lodgings to the barracks. 
This party fell in with the mob in Thomas Street, 
and, firing upon them, as afterwards proved to be 
the case, routed them from thence. At eleven 
they were again fired upon by a party belonging 
to the guard in the Coombe, in which direction 
the mob had fled after quitting Thomas Street; 
and they did not afterwards appear anywhere in 
a body throughout the night. While the mob 
remained in force in the street, it was hoped at 
every moment that an account would arrive of 
the army having marched from the barracks. 
Between nine and twelve o'clock several letters 
and notes were addressed to Sir Charles Asgill 
and the officer commanding at the barracks, both 
by Sir E. Littledales and myself, urging, in the 
most earnest manner, that the troops should be 
sent into the streets. A note from Sir Charles 
Asgill, dated half-past one o'clock, gave the first 
intimation that they had done so. Two hours 
before that, the mob had been finally routed. 

"The army and the yeomen patrolled during 
the rest of the night ; and, after clearing the 
streets, searched suspected places, and discovered 
many persons who had been concerned in the 
violent scenes of the night, as well as concealed 
pikes and other weapons. The principal depot 


of arms in Bridgefoot Street had been discovered 
before, about the time that Colonel Browne was 
killed nearly opposite to it, as he walked, attended 
only by a servant, towards his barracks. It was 
not till about one o'clock that Lord Kilwarden's 
body was known to have been found, nor for a 
considerable time after that of his nephew, Mr. 
Wolfe. It is very doubtful whether those in arms 
exceeded 300. Great efforts were used by their 
leaders to rally them, but the numbers decreased 
as the night advanced ; and, had not a false alarm 
on that evening occasioned them to break forth 
when they did, it is supposed that the numbers at 
a later hour would have been still fewer. Of the 
insurgents, it is supposed that about twenty-nine 
were killed — few of the wounded were found in 
Dublin ; but, according to the usual proportion, 
they must have been considerable." Marsden 
then names several offices and privates who were 
killed and wounded, and concludes : 

"The yeomen could not assemble so as to 
make any attack in a body, and, therefore, were 
not engaged until the mob was routed ; but, most 
unfortunately, Messrs. Edmondson and Parker, 
of the Liberty Rangers, were killed as they 
endeavoured to join a party of their friends ; 
and three others were wounded." These state- 
ments are more or less corroborated in the news- 
papers of the day. In a report* furnished to the 

* See Memoirs of Lord Castlereagb, Vol. iv. 



Government by Alderman Frederick Darley, one 
of the city magistrates, he gives an account of the 
discovery of the depot in Marshalsea Lane, which 
had been abandoned to itself. He says the night 
was extremely dark. Beyond showing that there 
was nothing like an organised rising, his report is, 
however, of little interest. 

The murder of Lord Kilwarden seems to have 
been the only serious incident of the night. 
Madden's suggestion that this act was committed 
by Orangemen, who hated his liberal principles, 
and who had mixed with the crowd for the 
purpose of assassinating the Chief Justice, has 
absolutely nothing in the shape of evidence to 
support it. It is one of the many prejudiced 
statements in his work which has seriously 
damaged, if not altogether destroyed, his reputa- 
tion as a historian. Emmet's own account of the 
disastrous failure of the rising will complete this 
lamentable record of the proceedings of the 23rd 
of July. 



"I EXPECTED," says Emmet, in the evidently 
hurried letter to his brother intercepted by the 
Government, "three hundred Wexford,four hundred 
Kildare,and two hundred Wicklow men, all of whom 
had fought before, to begin the surprises at this side 
of the water, and by the preparations for defence, 
so as to give time for the town to assemble. The 
county of Dublin was also to act at the instant 
it began ; the number of Dublin people acquainted 
with it, I understood, to be three or four thousand. 
I expected two thousand to assemble at Costigan's 
Mills — the grand place of assembly. The evening 
before, the Wicklow men failed, through their 
officers. The Kildare men (who were to act par- 
ticularly with me) came in, and at five o'clock went 
off again, from the Canal Harbour, on a report 
from two of their officers that Dublin would not 
act. In Dublin itself it was given out, by some 
treacherous or cowardly person, that it was post- 
poned till Wednesday. The time of assembly 
was from six till nine; and at nine, instead of 
two thousand, there were eighty men assembled. 
When we came to the Market House, they were 
diminished to eighteen or twenty. The Wexford 



men did assemble, I believe, to the amount pro- 
mised, on the coal quay ; but three hundred men, 
though they might be sufficient to begin on a 
sudden, were not so when Government had five 
hours' notice by express from Kildare. 

"Add to this, the preparations were, from an 
unfortunate series of disappointments in money, 
unfinished — scarcely any blunderbusses bought up. 
The man who was to turn the fuses and rammers 
for the beams forgot them, and went off to Kildare 
to bring men, and did not return till the very day. 
The consequence was that all the beams were not 
loaded, nor mounted with wheels, nor the train 
bags of course fastened on to explode them. 

"From the explosion in Patrick Street I lost 
the jointed pikes which were deposited there ; and 
the day of action was fixed on before this, and 
could not be changed. 

" I had no means for making up their loss but 
by the hollow beams full of pikes, which struck me 
three or four days before the 23rd. From the 
delays in getting the materials they were not able 
to set about them till the day before ; the whole of 
that day, and the next, which ought to have been 
spent in arrangements, was obliged to be em- 
ployed in work. Even this, from the confusion 
occasioned by men crowding into the depot from 
the country, was almost impossible. The person 
who had the management of the depot mixed, by 
accident, the slow matches that were prepared, 
with what were not, and all our labour went for 



nothing. The fuses for the grenades he had also 
laid by, where he forgot them, and could not find 
them in the crowd. 

"The cramp irons could not be got in time 
from the smiths, to whom we would not com- 
municate the necessity of dispatch ; and the scal- 
ing ladders were not finished (but one). Money 
came in at five o'clock, and the trusty men of this 
depot, who alone knew the town, were obliged to 
be sent out to buy up blunderbusses, for the 
people refused to act without some. To change 
the day was impossible, for I expected the counties 
to act, and feared to lose the advantage of surprise. 
The Kildare men were coming in for three days, 
and after that it was impossible to draw back. 
Had I another week — had I one thousand pounds 
— had I one thousand men — I would have feared 
nothing. There was redundancy enough in any 
one part to have made up, if complete, for defi- 
ciency in the rest, but there was failure in all — 
plan, preparation, and men. 

"I would have given it the respectability of 
insurrection, but I did not wish uselessly to shed 
blood. I gave no signal for the rest, and they all 

" I arrived time enough in the country to pre- 
vent that part of it which had already gone out 
with one of my men — to dissuade the neighbour- 
hood from proceeding. I found that by a mistake 
of the messenger Wicklow would not rise that 
night; I sent off to prevent it from doing so 



the next, as it intended. It offered to rise even 
after the defeat if I wished it, but I refused. Had 
it risen, Wexford would have done the same. It 
began to assemble, but the leader kept it back till 
he knew the fate of Dublin. In the state Kildare 
was in it would have done the same. I was 
repeatedly solicited, by some of those who were 
with me, to do so, but I constantly refused. The 
more remote counties did not rise, for want of 
money to send them the signal agreed on. 

"I know how men without candour will pro- 
nounce on this failure, without knowing one of the 
circumstances that occasioned it ; they will con- 
sider only that they predicted it. Whether its 
failure was caused by chance, or by any of the 
grounds on which they made their prediction, they 
will not care; they will make no distinction 
between a prediction fulfilled and justified — they 
will make no compromise of errors ; they will not 
recollect that they predicted also that no system 
could be formed — that no secrecy nor confidence 
could be restored — that no preparations could be 
made — that no plan could be arranged — that no 
day could be fixed without being instantly known 
at the Castle — that Government only waited to let 
the conspiracy ripen, and crush it at their pleasure 
— and that on these grounds only did they predict 
its miscarriage. The very same men that after 
success would have flattered, will now calumniate. 
The very same men that would have made an 
offering of unlimited sagacity at the shrine of 



victory, will not now be content to take back that 
portion that belongs of right to themselves, but 
would violate the sanctity of misfortune, and strip 
her of that covering that candour would have left 
her. R. E." 

Emmet, it will be seen, speaks with some little 
bitterness at the close of his letter of the class 
who, after the failure of any or every movement 
with which they may or may not have been 
connected, deliver their judgment upon it with 
the air of those who could not possibly have 
fallen into the same errors, and who thus imply 
that only the certainly successful would or could 
engage their attention. He had reason to com- 
plain to some extent of those who gave him no 
hint that all was not right, but it must be confessed 
thatfEmmet's astoundingly childlike ignorance of 
men, and implicit faith in his associates, invite 
serious and damaging criticism. It is impossible 
to acquit him of woful incapacity in his dealings 
with men. His bravery, his chivalry, and generous 
nature command admiration, but the conclusion 
come to by some of his associates that he was 
the last man in the world likely to lead a success- 
ful revolution cannot but be accepted as the right 
one. 7 True, many accidents happened, and the 
fortunes of war were, as often before, overwhelm- 
ingly with the Government, but these should have 
been anticipated and guarded against, and nothing 
should have been left to the good-will or doubtful 



energy of mere underlings. Emmet's conduct, 
however, when the failure was certain, does him 
great credit. He refused to be responsible for the 
slaughter of the people which would assuredly 
have taken place. 

Anne Devlin, the faithful servant of Emmet, 
gave Madden her recollections of the events which 
followed the smothering of the riot (all that it can 
be called) of the 23rd of July. On that night, she 
says, "at about eleven o'clock at night, Robert 
Emmet,Nicholas Stafford, Michael Quigley,Thomas 
Wylde, John Mahon, John Hevey, and the two 
Perrotts from Naas, came to the house at Butter- 
field Lane. She first saw them outside of the 
house, in the yard ; she was at that moment send- 
ing off a man on horseback with ammunition in a 
sack, and bottles filled with powder. She called 
out, * Who's there?' Robert Emmet answered, 
' It's me, Anne.' She said, 6 Oh, bad welcome to 
you ! Is the world lost by you, cowards that you 
are, to lead the people to destruction, and then to 
leave them ?' Robert Emmet said, 4 Don't blame 
me, the fault is not mine.' They then came in ; 
Quigley was present, but they did not upbraid him. 
Emmet and the others told her afterwards that 
Quigley was the cause of the failure. 

"Michael Quigley," goes on Anne Devlin, "had 
been constantly in the store in Thomas Street. 
On the 23rd his conduct was thought extra- 
ordinary ; he rushed into the depot shortly before 
nine o'clock, and said he had been looking down 


Dirty Lane, and saw the army coming ; he ran in, 
exclaiming, 'All is lost — the army is coming.' 
Robert Emmet said, ' If that be the case, we may 
as well die in the streets as cooped up here/ It 
was then he rushed out, and the rout took place. 
Robert Emmet ran down Patrick Street and the 
Coombe, crying, ' Turn out, turn out;' but no one 
came out. He was attacked by some soldiers in 
the Coombe, but got off. They stopped at Butter- 
field Lane that night and next day ; and at night, 
about ten o'clock, fled to the mountains, when 
they got information that the house was to be 
searched. Her (Anne Devlin's) father, who kept 
a dairy close by, got horses for three of them, and 
went with them. 

" Rose Hope, wife of James Hope, had been 
there keeping the house also. The reason of their 
(the rebel leaders) stopping there that night was, 
that Emmet expected Dwyer and the mountaineers 
down in the morning by break of day, but Dwyer 
had not got Emmet's previous letter, and had 
heard of Emmet's defeat only the next day, and 
therefore did not come. Emmet and his com- 
panions first went to Doyle's in the mountains, 
and thence to the Widow Bagnell's. Anne Devlin 
and Miss Wylde, sister to Mrs. Mahon, two or 
three days after went up to the mountains in a 
jingle with letters for them. They found Robert 
Emmet and his associates at the Widow Bagnell's 
sitting on the side of the hill ; some of them were 
in their uniforms, for they had no other clothes. 



Robert Emmet insisted on coming back with her 
(Anne) and her companions ; he parted with them 
before they came to Rathfarnham, but she (Anne 
Devlin) knows not where he went that night ; but 
in a day or two after he sent for her to take a 
letter to Miss Curran ; he was then staying at Mrs. 
Palmer's, at Harold's Cross. . . . 

" The day after the gentlemen went away from 
Butterfield Lane, a troop of yeomen came with a 
magistrate, and searched the house ; every place 
was ramsacked from top to bottom. As for her- 
self (Anne Devlin) she was seized on when they 
first rushed in, as if they were going to tear down 
the house. She was kept below by three or four 
of the yeomen with their fixed bayonets pointed 
at her, and so close to her body that she could feel 
their points. When the others came down she 
was examined. She said she knew nothing in the 
world about the gentlemen, except that she was 
the servant maid; where they came from, and 
where they went to, she knew nothing about ; and 
as long as her wages were paid, she cared to know 
nothing else about them. 

" The magistrate pressed her to tell the truth — 
he threatened her with death if she did not tell ; 
she persisted in asserting her total ignorance of 
Mr. Ellis s acts and movements, and of those of 
all the other gentlemen. At length the magis- 
trate gave the word to hang her, and she was 
dragged into the court-yard to be executed. 
There was a common car there — they tilted up 


the shafts and fixed a rope from the back band 
that goes across the shafts, and while these 
preparations were making for her execution, the 
yeomen kept her standing against the wall of the 
house, prodding her with their bayonets in the 
arms and shoulders till she was all covered with 
blood, and saying to her at every thrust of the 
bayonet, * Will you confess now ? will you tell now, 
where is Mr. Ellis?' Her constant answer was, 
1 I have nothing to tell. I will tell nothing.' " 

Anne Devlin proceeds to describe how she was 
finally dragged to the improvised gallows, and the 
rope put round her neck. She was asked for the 
last time, "Will you confess where Mr. Ellis is?" 
and her reply was, "You may murder me, you 
villains, but not one word will you get from me 
about him." She had barely time to ejaculate a 
prayer, when a great shout was raised by the 
yeomen who pulled the rope, and the others 
holding down the back of the car, and she was 
hoisted into the air. After being suspended for 
two or three minutes, she was lowered to the 
ground, and soon recovered her senses. She was 
then taken to town, and brought before Major 
Sirr, who tried to coax her into giving information. 
The heroic girl still absolutely refused to give any 
information whatever about the insurgent leaders. 
Bribing was then tried, and Major Sirr, who 
repeatedly said, "All we want to know is where 
did Emmet go to from Butterfield Lane?" — told 
her that £500 reward would be paid to her for the 



information, adding that that " was a fine fortune 
for a young woman only to tell against persons who 
were not her relatives ; that all the others of them 
had confessed the truth, and that they were sent 
home liberated," which statements were, of course, 
utterly untrue. Finding all his efforts of no avail, 
Major Sirr ordered her to be kept in solitary 
confinement at Kilmainham, where every possible 
contrivance was resorted to to entrap her into 
even admitting her knowledge of Emmet, but all 
to no purpose. After Emmet had been arrested, 
and was (without her knowledge) in Kilmainham, 
the dodge was tried of allowing her to meet him 
in the exercise yard, but she kept her features 
composed, only allowing Emmet, by a glance, to 
understand her reason, and they passed each other 
as utter strangers. Her father, mother, and brother 
were also prisoners for a time. 

The treatment of these, and indeed of all the 
prisoners, and especially of Anne Devlin, who was 
known to have some knowledge of the rebel 
leaders, was barbarous in the extreme. The 
prison doctor, Trevor (to whom Emmet had 
entrusted his letter to his brother) was a vile brute 
without either decency or humanity. 

Anne Devlin, whose conduct entitles her to 
admiration, was kept in prison altogether for 
considerably over a year. She died in poverty at 
the age of seventy in September, 185 1. She had 
married a poor man named Campbell some years 
after her release, and he predeceased her. A son 


and daughter survived her. She was a niece of 
Michael Dwyer, the Wicklow outlaw, and a cousin 
of Arthur Devlin, one of Emmet's chief lieutenants. 

It would seem that when Emmet reached the 
mountains he found the Wicklow men determined 
to rise, and bent on making an immediate attack 
on some of the principal towns in the county. 
Emmet had the greatest difficulty in restraining 
them. They were prepared to march into Dublin 
or anywhere at his bidding, but it was with the 
greatest reluctance that they yielded to his argu- 
ments in favour of the hopelessness of the attempt 
now that the Government were aroused to the 
danger. They at length gave way, and then 
considered his position, asking him what arrange- 
ments he had made for his escape. Nothing was 
easier than to effect this at the time. It would 
have been easy to put out to sea and get across to 
France, but Emmet had other views for the mo- 
ment. His love for Sarah Curran had made 
him resolve to see her at once, and it was for 
this reason that he accompanied Anne Devlin 
part of the way to town, and left her at Rathfarn- 
ham. It was at the Priory here, John Philpot 
Curran's house, that Emmet had met Sarah 
Curran, and here he now sought what he felt 
might be probably the last interview for many 
years, if not the final one of all. 



Emmet made several attempts to see Sarah 
Curran, but was unsuccessful. M'Nally, the in- 
famous spy who was Curran's intimate friend, 
and was believed in implicitly by both Emmet 
and Curran, had full knowledge of the former's 
love for Curran's daughter, and had gradually, it 
would seen, embittered Curran against Emmet, 
and had doubtless told the famous advocate of the 
treasonable designs of the young lover, and pointed 
out to Curran the risk he, the future Master of the 
Rolls, ran in allowing his family to be in any way 
connected with a rebel. In his letter to J. P. 
Curran, shortly to be quoted, Emmet evidently 
wished to impress upon the latter that his attach- 
ment to Sarah Curran was of very recent origin. 
In reality, however, the engagement was of long 
standing, and a considerable correspondence passed 
between the two lovers. These letters fell into 
the hands of Major Sirr, who kept them for years 
in his possession, but finally destroyed them. 
Anne Devlin informed Madden that she had 
several times conveyed notes to Miss Curran 
while Emmet was living at Butterfield Lane, and 
that whenever she handed her a letter, " her face 




would change so, one would hardly know her." 
"You could not see Miss Curran," she added, "and 
not help liking her; and yet she was not handsome; 
she was more than handsome." She describes her 
as follows : " Miss Sarah was not tall, her figure 
was very slight, her complexion dark, her eyes 
large and black, and her look was the mildest, the 
softest, and the sweetest look you ever saw." 

She never saw Emmet, it is almost certain, after 
the day of the insurrection. It has been stated by 
several writers that she had an interview with him 
the day before his execution, but this is erroneous. 
Nobody saw him in his last days but Leonard 
M'Nally and the chaplain, no other person being 
permitted to visit him. It may be well, in re- 
ference to Emmet's love for Sarah Curran, to 
quote now two letters he wrote while in prison, 
one to her father on the night before his execution, 
and one to his friend Richard Curran, Sarah's 
brother, written at the same time. They are 
among the Sirr papers in Trinity College Library. 
The letter to J. P. Curran is as follows. It is 
neither signed nor dated : 

"I did not expect you to be my counsel. I 
nominated you, because not to have done so might 

have appeared remarkable. Had Mr. * been 

in town, I did not even wish to have seen you ; but 
as he was not, I wrote to you to come to me at 
once. I know that I have done you very severe 

* Referring to Robert Holmes, the advocate. 



injury, much greater than I can atone for with my 
life ; that atonement I did offer to make before the 
Privy Council, by pleading guilty if those docu- 
ments were suppressed. I offered more — I offered, 
if I was permitted to consult some persons, and if 
they would consent to an accommodation for saving 
the lives of others, that I would only require for my 
part of it the suppression of these documents, and 
that I would abide the event of my trial. This 
was also rejected, and nothing but individual in- 
formation (with the exception of names) would be 
taken. My intention was not to leave the sup- 
pression of these documents to possibility, but to 
render it unnecessary for any one to plead for me, 
by pleading guilty to the charge myself. 

" The circumstances that I am now going to 
mention I do not state in my own justification. 
When I first addressed your daughter I expected 
that in another week my own fate would have 
been decided. I know that in case of success 
many others might look on me differently from 
what they did at that moment, but I speak with 
sincerity when I say that I never was anxious for 
situation or distinction myself, and I did not wish 
to be united to one who was. I spoke to your 
daughter, neither expecting, nor in fact, under 
those circumstances, wishing that there should be a 
return of attachment, but wishing to judge of her 
dispositions — to know how far they might be not 
unfavourable or disengaged, and to know what 
foundation I might afterwards have to count on. 



I received no encouragement whatever. She told 
me she had no attachment for any person, nor did 
she seem likely to have any that could make her 
wish to quit you. I stayed away till the time had 
elapsed, when I found that the event, to which I 
allude, was to be postponed indefinitely. I 
returned, by a kind of infatuation, thinking that to 
myself only was I giving pleasure or pain. I 
perceived no progress of attachment on her part, 
nor anything in her conduct to distinguish me 
from a common acquaintance. Afterwards I had 
reason to suppose that discoveries were made, and 
that I should be obliged to quit the kingdom im- 
mediately. I came to make a renunciation of any 
approach to friendship that might have been 
found. On that very day she herself spoke to me 
to discontinue my visits. I told her it was my 
intention, and I mentioned the reason. I then 
for the first time found where I was unfortunate, 
by the manner in which she was affected, that 
there was a return of affection, and that it was too 
late to retreat. My own apprehensions, also, I 
afterwards found, were without cause, and I re- 

" There has been much culpability on my part 
in all this, but there has been a great deal of that 
misfortune which seems uniformly to have ac- 
companied me. That I have written to your 
daughter since an unfortunate event has taken 
place was an additional breach of propriety, for 
which I have suffered well ; but I will candidly 



confess that I not only do not feel it to have been of 
the same extent, but that I consider it to have been 
unavoidable after what had passed ; for though I 
will not attempt to justify in the smallest degree 
my former conduct, yet when an attachment was 
once formed between us — and a sincerer one never 
did exist — I feel that, peculiarly circumstanced as I 
then was, to have left her uncertain of my situa- 
tion would neither have weaned her affections nor 
lessened her anxiety; and looking upon her as 
one whom, if I lived, I hoped to have had my 
partner for life, I did hold the removing of her 
anxiety above every other consideration. I would 
rather have the affections of your daughter in the 
back settlements of America, than the first situa- 
tion this country could offer without them. I 
know not whether this will be any extenuation of 
my offence ; I know not whether it will be any ex- 
tenuation of it to know that if I had that situation 
in my power at this moment, I would relinquish it 
to devote my life to her happiness ; I know not 
whether success would have blotted out the recol- 
lection of what I have done; but I know that a 
man with the coldness of death on him need not to 
be made to feel any other coldness, and that he 
may be spared any addition to the misery he feels, 
not for himself, but for those to whom he has left 
nothing but sorrow." 

In the letter just quoted, Emmet's idea was to 
mitigate the wrath which he knew Curran was 
likely to visit upon his unfortunate daughter, 


whom he treated with great harshness if not with 

The letter to Richard Curran is couched in quite 
another strain : 

"My dearest Richard,— I find I have but a 
few hours to live, but if it was the last moment, 
and that the power of utterance was leaving me, 
I would thank you from the bottom of my heart 
for your generous expressions of affection and 
forgiveness to me. If there was any one in the 
world in whose breast my death might be supposed 
not to stifle every mark of resentment, it might be 
you. I have deeply injured you — I have injured 
the happiness of a sister that you love, and who 
was formed to give happiness to every one about 
her, instead of having her own mind a prey to 

" O Richard ! I have no excuse to offer, but 
that I meant the reverse; I intended as much 
happiness for Sarah as the most ardent could have 
given her. I never did tell you how much I 
idolized her. It was not with a wild or unfounded 
passion, but it was an attachment increasing every 
hour, from an admiration of the purity of her 
mind, and respect for her talents. I did dwell in 
secret upon the prospect of our union. I did hope 
that success, while it afforded the opportunity of 
our union, might be a means of confirming an 
attachment which misfortune had called forth. I 
did not look to honours for myself — praise I 


would have asked from the lips of no man ; but I 
would have wished to read in the glow of Sara's 
countenance that her husband was respected. 

" My love, Sarah ! it was not thus I thought to 
have requited your affection. I did hope to be a 
prop, round which your affections might have 
clung, and which would never have been shaken ; 
but a rude blast has snapped it, and they have 
fallen over a grave. 

" This is no time for affliction. I have had 
public motives to sustain my mind, and I have not 
suffered it to sink; but there have been moments 
in my imprisonment when my mind was so sunk 
by grief on her account, that death would have 
been a refuge. God bless you, my dearest Richard. 
I am obliged to leave off immediately. 

"Robert Emmet." 

Emmet, a few days after the failure of his 
attempt, seems to have gone to his old lodgings at 
Mrs. Palmer's in Harold's Cross, and there he 
remained in concealment until the 25th of August, 
when he was arrested. Some one had probably 
informed the Government of his whereabouts, and 
on the day named Major Sirr went to the house 
and knocked at the door. He was on horseback 
himself, and was accompanied by a man on foot. 
The door was opened by a little girl, and the 
Major immediately pushed his way into the back 
parlour. According to the Major's evidence he 
there saw Emmet, and requested Mrs. Palmer and 



the little girl (her daughter) to withdraw. He 
asked Emmet his name, and he replied " Cunning- 
ham.' 9 The companion of the Major was im- 
mediately placed in charge of the parlour while 
Sirr questioned Mrs. Palmer as to her lodger. She 
said his name was Hewitt. 

The prisoner, on being interrogated, declared he 
had arrived that morning. While the Major was 
away from the room, the prisoner had apparently 
attempted to escape, for he was covered with 
blood, Sirr's myrmidon having struck him with a 
pistol. Mrs. Palmer, on being separately ques- 
tioned, stated that her lodger had been there a 
month. The Major then called the canal guard, 
whom he had notified on his way to the house, 
and directed the house to be surrounded while it 
was searched. While this was going on, he heard 
the noise of what appeared to be an attempt to 
escape, and saw the prisoner running off. He 
ordered one of the sentries to fire, but the musket 
did not go off. The Major himself ran after and 
overtook the prisoner, who surrendered quietly. 
On Sirr's remarking that he was sorry for the 
necessity of treating him so roughly, Emmet re- 
plied, "All is fair in war." When brought to 
the Castle, he acknowledged that he was Robert 

This is the substance of the account given at 
the trial by Major Sirr of his capture of Emmet, 
and it seems not to have been questioned in any 
important particular. Emmet was removed to 



Kilmainham from the Castle, and while in prison 
awaiting his trial, an attempt was made to effect a 
rescue. It was proposed, if he could be safely got 
out of the prison, to convey him on board of a vessel 
called the " Erin," which would land him at one of 
the Continental ports. The prime mover in this 
plot was Emmet's cousin, a Kerry man and bar- 
rister, named St. John Mason. 

The latter's account to Madden was that he 
received a note from Emmet, asking him to offer 
George Dunn, one of the warders, the sum of 
£500 or ;£i,ooo as a reward for allowing or 
assisting him to escape. Dunn agreed to the pro- 
position, and proceeded to enter into the details 
of the plan. Meanwhile all communications were 
handed to the Governor, Mr. John Dunn, who was 
erroneously believed to be an uncle of the other 
Dunn. This governor seems to have been a 
humane man, for noticing when Emmet was 
brought before him that he was loaded with irons, 
and that these had cut through the prisoner's silk 
stockings, and that his ankles were bleeding, he 
ordered their immediate removal. 

It should be stated that Mason had been in 
Kilmainham since the 9th of August on suspicion 
of complicity in the insurrection. As late as 
February, 1842, in answer to a statement in the 
London Times which was very inaccurate, Mason 
wrote a full account of the whole transaction 
under the name of " Verax." He was then living 
at Bath, and addressed his letter thence. In this 


rather lengthy document, he states that Dunn, 
contrary to the Times declaration of the bribe 
being spurned, unquestionably accepted the pro- 
position, but " throughout the transaction, prac- 
tised the foulest perfidy." Mason goes on to say 
that Dunn had no means of carrying out his 
promises, though he pretended that he could easily 
arrange the escape. In fact, in conjunction with 
the Dr. Trevor already mentioned, who would also 
have had to be " squared," Dunn concocted a plan 
of possible escape simply in order to cheat the 
prisoner, and raise hopes which could not have 
been fulfilled by either of them. Mason de- 
nounces Trevor for his consistent cruelty towards 
the State prisoners, saying that he himself had 
had two years' bitter experience of his barbarous 
treatment. He was, according to Mason, an 
illegitimate son of Lord Downshire, and other 
charges are made, affecting his character, which 
need not be mentioned here.* 

Mason, who was in an adjoining cell to that 
occupied by Emmet, received the communication 
from the latter requesting him to bribe the gaoler 
with certain misgivings, but it was clearly genuine, 
and he did not hesitate, notwithstanding the risks 
he ran, to act upon it. " In doing so," he says, 
"he admits his legal guilt, but as to any moral 
guilt he feels but little compunction. His only 

* His conduct was subsequently made a subject of Parliamentary 
nvestigation on the motion of R. B. Sheridan. 



regret is that he failed in this attempt. What were 
his motives? Robert Emmet was his first cousin, 
and the ties of nature are not easily broken ! He 
(Emmet) had a great and noble heart. He shared 
with the rest of his family those transcendent 
talents which have acquired for the name of 
Emmet an imperishable renown. But above all 
he was then upon the threshold of the grave — 
the finger of death was almost upon him ; and 
where lives the man, having a human heart within 
him, who would not under such circumstances 
have made a similar attempt? . . . However, 
Dunn received the proposition, including the 
specification of the sum which would be given, 
in a way which showed, as soon after proved, 
that he had been previously trained by his em- 
ployer to expect it." Mason goes on to say that 
Trevor permitted the communications to pass 
between him and Emmet, knowing their relation- 
ship, and allowed a suit of clothes, afterwards worn 
by Emmet on his trial, to be smuggled into the 
latter's cell. 

The reason for encouraging this plot was, in 
Masons opinion, to discover whether anything 
would occur between the two prisoners to show 
Mason's connection with Emmet's insurrection. 
The whole of the correspondence between the two 
prisoners was duly forwarded to the Castle by 
Trevor and placed in the hands of Marsden, the 
Under-Secretary. After the plot had gone suffi- 
ciently far for Trevor's purpose, he claimed the 


credit for himself and Dunn of their fidelity to the 
Government, and claimed, and no doubt received, 
his reward. "By means of the present trans- 
action," says Mason, " and other acts equally base, 
and likewise by a long course of prison peculation, 
from having been an obscure and needy adventurer, 
he became a man of wealth." 

Mason concludes his letter with a warm eulo- 
gium of Emmet's personal courage, and high 
principle. George Dunn was not an Irishman, 
but an Englishman (according to some accounts ; 
others say he was a native of Berwick-on-Tweed), 
and by his duplicity and cunning eventually be- 
came head-gaoler of Kilmainham, a very lucrative 
position. Emmet's communication to Mason was, 
of course, suggested to the former by the precious 
pair (Dunn and Trevor) through the medium of 
another turnkey. 

Madden prints one of the notes to Mason from 
Emmet, arranging the details of his escape. He 
also prints the following letter from him to the 
Chief Secretary, Mr. Wickham, which is interest- 
ing as showing Emmet's extraordinary mildness 
and gentleness of disposition. It is true that the 
governor of Kilmainham had very kindly made 
things as comfortable for him as possible, but why 
Emmet should thank the Government for this 
elementary act of justice is only to be explained 
by the affectionate nature of Emmet and his 
curious willingness to see only the good side of 
men's actions. The letter is as follows : 



20th September, 1803. 

u Sir, — Had I been permitted to proceed with 
my vindication, it was my intention not only to 
have acknowledged the delicacy with which I feel 
with gratitude that I have been personally treated, 
but also to have done the most public justice to the 
mildness of the present administration of this 
country, and at the same time to have acquitted 
them, as far as rested with me, of any charge of 
remissness in not having previously detected a 
conspiracy, which from its closeness I know it was 
impossible to have done. I confess that I should 
have preferred this mode if it had been permitted, 
as it would thereby have enabled me to clear 
myself from an imputation under which I might in 
consequence lie, and to have stated why such an 
administration did not prevent, but under the 
peculiar situation of this country perhaps rather 
accelerated, my determination to make an effort 
for the overthrow of a Government of which I do 
not think equally high. 

" However, as I have been deprived of that 
opportunity, I think it right now to make an 
acknowledgment which justice requires of me as 
a man, and which I do not feel in the least 
derogatory from my decided principles as an 
Irishman. — I am, etc., 

"Robert Emmet. 

" Rt Hon. W. Wickham, etc." 

Most people will probably agree that this letter, 
like the one to Curran, shows the lamentable 
weakness of Emmet's character. 




On September 7th, Emmet was brought into 
court and informed that a Bill of Indictment 
for high treason had been found against him, 
and he was asked to name his counsel and agent, 
which he did. He afterwards altered "these — 
evidently on account of the protest of Curran 
— and eventually named Peter Burrowes and 
Leonard M'Nally as his counsel, and the latter as 
his agent. On Wednesday the 15th he was 
arraigned, and pleaded "Not Guilty/' and on 
being asked whether he was ready for trial, said 
he would be ready on the following Monday. 

Accordingly, on Monday, September 19th, he 
was brought up before Lord Norbury, Baron 
George, and Baron Daly, the prosecuting counsel 
being Standish O'Grady, afterwards Lord Guilla- 
more, William Conyngham Plunket, afterwards 
Lord Chancellor, and others. The conduct of 
Plunket, his extreme hostility and bitterness 
towards the prisoner, have often been unfavourably 
commented upon. He had been the friend of Dr. 
Emmet, and was, it is said, a college companion 
of Robert Emmet ; and the latter was somewhat 
astonished to find that his quondam friend was 




far more vindictive than the Attorney-General, 
whose opening statement was eminently fair and 
moderate. In this address, O'Grady, while de- 
claring that the conspiracy " was in truth, in 
point of numbers, contemptible in the extreme, 
and prepared and put forward by those only who 
had been distinguished for their former treasons," 
yet gave exaggerated praise to the troops engaged 
in its suppression. " If I am rightly instructed," 
he went on, " we have now brought to the bar of 
justice, not a person who has been seduced by 
others, but a gentleman to whom the rebellion 
may be traced, as the origin, the life, and the soul 
of it." He proceeded to say that Emmet must have 
embarked in the scheme with his eyes open, that 
he returned from France full of his " mischievous 
designs ;" and he added : " Gentlemen, you all 
recollect the King's message to the House of 
Commons, from which it was to be collected that a 
rupture would probably take place between this 
United Kingdom and France — that was early in 
March. That circumstance was a very consider- 
able stimulative, indeed, to the treason which had 
been heretofore set on foot in this country; and 
accordingly, upon the 24th of the same month, 
that memorable depot, of which you have all 
heard so much, was taken by the conspirators." 
O'Grady proceeded to describe Emmet's taking 
lodgings at Mrs. Palmer's, and his removal thence, 
on April 27th, to Butterfield Lane, paying a fine 
of sixty-one guineas for the lease, which he signed 


with the name of Robert Ellis. He took it from 
a Mr. Frayne, who never saw any furniture in it 
except a mattrass, and who frequently saw people 
visiting his tenant, with whom they sat up late at 
night. After the explosion in Patrick Street, 
said the Attorney-General, the conspirators aban- 
doned the Butterfield Lane house, from which 
hitherto the prisoner was rarely absent, and took 
up their residence in the depot in Thomas Street. 
Here, said O' Grady, the prisoner was constantly 
superintending the manufacture of pikes and ball 
cartridges and inspecting the other arms and am- 
munition; now reading over his projected proclama- 
tion to his associates, and now dressing himself in his 
green and gold uniform, and, as it were, rehearsing 
the forthcoming event. The Attorney-General then 
read a paper found in the depot and attributed 
to Emmet, of which the following is the most 
salient passage : " I have little time to look at the 
thousand difficulties which still lie between me 
and the completion of my wishes — that those 
difficulties will likewise disappear I have ardent, 
and I trust rational hopes, but if it is not to be the 
case, I thank God for having gifted me with a 
sanguine disposition," etc. 

O'Grady stated that "the famous arsenal of 
treason so strongly garrisoned at an early hour of 
the evening (of the 23rd), and which contained 
such stores of ammunition, was carried by the 
assault of a private soldier with a pistol in his 
hand." The proclamations found in the depot 


were then referred to, and their contents indicated. 
One began : "A Band of Patriots, mindful of their 
oath as United Irishmen, have determined to give 
freedom to their country, and a period to the long 
career of English Oppression." 

After detailing Emmet's movements after the 
failure, the prosecutor described his arrival at 
Mrs. Palmer's house. " He arrived there the 
Saturday after the rebellion ; he had then 
abandoned his hat, his regimental coat, and the 
title of general ; but he retained his black stock, 
his regimental breeches, and waistcoat, and his 
Hessian boots : these he could not with such 
readiness change." 

The arrest was next described, and the account 
differs only slightly from Major Sirr's account, 
already given : 

"Sirr," said the Attorney-General, "came by 
surprise on the house, having sent a countryman to 
give a single rap, and the door being opened, the 
Major rushed in and caught Mrs. Palmer and the 
prisoner sitting down to dinner." O'Grady men- 
tioned a feature of the proclamations which is of 
interest, namely, that while the English soldiers 
were to be treated as prisoners of war, the yeomen 
were to be considered rebels, as also the Irish 
militia. If taken in war, they were to be tried by 
court-martial, and put to death as traitors. The 
Attorney- General concluded by asking the jury 
not to mind any popular rumours to the prisoner's 
discredit which they may have heard, but to judge 



him only on the merits of the evidence which 
would be produced. 

The first witness was a Joseph Rawlins, whose 
examination was very brief. He simply testified 
that Emmet had told him on his return from abroad, 
that he had been to see his brother in Brussels. 

A Mr. George Tyrrell, an attorney, next proved 
the execution of the lease for the house in Butter- 
field Lane, and the fact that the prisoner described 
himself in it as Robert Ellis. Frayne next gave 
the evidence already alluded to, after which a 
Kildare man named Fleming, who had had access 
to the depot, gave evidence that Emmet was in chief 
command there and generally directed operations, 
and as to the nature of the manufacture going on 
there. The witness described Emmet's uniform as 
consisting of a green coat with gold epaulettes, a 
cocked hat with white feathers, a white waistcoat 
and breeches; and said that he wore a sash and a 
sword, and carried a case of pistols. He also said 
that Quigley and Stafford wore similar uniforms, 
but that Stafford's feather was green. The witness 
also deposed that Emmet was called Ellis by his 
men. Another witness named Terence Colgan, a 
tailor, deposed that he was employed at the 
Thomas Street store making green jackets and 
white pantaloons. Other witnesses of no par- 
ticular account were also examined, and swore to 
certain unimportant points, but all more or less 
tending to prove Emmet's control of the insur- 


Mrs. Rose Bagnal, of Ballinascorney, deposed 
that on the Tuesday following the rebellion, 
sixteen or seventeen persons came to her house 
and stayed there one night, leaving at nine the 
next night, but she said she was so frightened that 
she could not remember any of them, and was not 
pressed on the point. After Joseph Palmer, son 
of Mrs. Palmer, of Harold's Cross, who deposed to 
Emmet's lodging at his house, and to the arrest, 
the redoubtable Major Sirr was called. His evi- 
dence has been already given in substance. With 
it the case for the Crown closed, and Emmet's 
counsel announced that there would be no wit- 
nesses for the defence. 

M'Nally stated that Emmet did not wish to 
take up the time of the court by making any 
defence, and had instructed his counsel not to 
speak in his behalf. He therefore presumed that 
the case was closed on both sides, but in this 
belief he counted without the vanity and venom 
of Plunket, who insisted on his right to address 
the court against the prisoner. Plunket accord- 
ingly got his opportunity, and in his speech 
denounced the prisoner in such unmeasured terms, 
and with such violence of manner, that even his 
own friends were disgusted, and he was not soon 
allowed to forget his wanton assault upon a de- 
fenceless prisoner, and one, too, whom he had 
known and professed to esteem. It was a strong 
bid for promotion and office, and in due course he 
received its guerdon. In his speech Plunket 


assumed and rightly assumed that Emmet was 
already doomed, and he unctuously counselled him 
" to make an atonement to his God and his 
country by employing whatever time remains to 
him in warning his deluded countrymen from 
persevering in their schemes." 

Lord Norbury summed up as strongly as he 
could against the prisoner, and the jury, without 
leaving the box, found him " Guilty." On being 
asked whether he had anything to say "why 
judgment of death and execution should not be 
awarded against him according to law," Emmet 
delivered the magnificent speech which has thrilled 
the hearts of generation after generation of Irish 
men and women, and has extorted from the most 
unwilling sources tributes of unstinted admiration. 
The following is, perhaps, the most authentic 
report of the oration, which must have been quite 
extempore : 

"My Lords, — As to why judgment of death 
and execution should not be passed upon me 
according to law, I have nothing to say; but as to 
why my character should not be relieved from the 
imputations and calumnies thrown out against it, 
I have much to say. I do not imagine that your 
lordships will give credit to what I am going to 
utter; I have no hopes that I can anchor my 
character in the breast of the court. I only wish 
your lordships may suffer it to float down your 
memories, until it has found some more hospitable 


harbour to shelter it from the storms with which it 
is at present buffeted. Was I to suffer only death 
after being adjudged guilty, I should bow in 
silence to the fate which awaits me; but the 
sentence of the law which delivers over my body 
to the executioner consigns my character to 
obloquy. A man in my situation has not only to 
encounter the difficulties of fortune, but also the 
difficulties of prejudice. Whilst the man dies, his 
memory lives ; and that mine may not forfeit all 
claim to the respect of my countrymen, I seize 
upon this opportunity to vindicate myself from 
some of the charges alleged against me. I am 
charged with being an emissary of France. It is 
false — I am no emissary. I did not wish to 
deliver up my country to a foreign power, and 
least of all to France. Never did I entertain the 
remotest idea of establishing French power in 
Ireland. From the introductory paragraph of the 
address of the Provisional Government, it is evi- 
dent that every hazard attending an independent 
effort was deemed preferable to the more fatal risk 
of introducing a French army into this country. 
Small indeed would be our claim to patriotism 
and to sense, and palpable our affectation of the 
love of liberty, if we were to sell our country to a 
people who are not only slaves themselves, but the 
unprincipled and abandoned instruments of im- 
posing slavery upon others.* And, my lords, let 

* Referring to the acts of oppression mentioned in a previous 


me here observe that I am not the head and life's 
blood of this rebellion. When I came to Ireland 
I found the business ripe for execution. I was 
asked to join in it. I took time to consider, and 
after mature deliberation, I became one of the 
Provisional Government ; and there then was, my 
lords, an agent of the United Irishmen and Pro- 
visional Government of Ireland at Paris, negotiat- 
ing with the French Government to obtain them 
an aid sufficient to accomplish the separation of 
I/eland from Great Britain ; the preliminary to 
which assistance has been a guarantee to Ire- 
land similar to that which Franklin obtained for 
America. But the imputation that I, or the rest 
of the Provisional Government, meditated to put 
our country under the dominion of a power which 
has been the enemy of freedom in every part of 
the globe is utterly false and unfounded. Did we 
entertain any such idea, how could we speak of 
giving freedom to our countrymen ? How could 
we assume such an exalted motive ? If such an 
inference is drawn from any part of the proclama- 
tion of the Provisional Government, it calumniates 
their views, and is not warranted by the fact. 

" Connection with France was indeed intended, 
but only as far as mutual interest would sanction 
or require. Were they to assume any authority 
inconsistent with the purest independence, it would 
be the signal for their destruction. We sought aid, 
and we sought it — as we had assurance we should 
obtain it — as auxiliaries in war and allies in peace. 


"Were the French to come as invaders or 
enemies, uninvited by the wishes of the people, I 
should oppose them to the utmost of my strength. 
Yes ! my countrymen, I should advise you to 
meet them upon the beach, with a sword in one 
hand and a torch in the other. I would meet 
them with all the destructive fury of war. I 
would animate my countrymen to immolate them 
in their boats before they had contaminated the 
soil of my country. If they succeeded in landing, 
and if forced to retire before superior discipline, I 
would dispute every inch of ground, burn every 
blade of grass, and the last entrenchment of liberty 
should be my grave. What I could not do 
myself, and if I should fall, I should leave as a last 
charge to my countrymen to accomplish ; because 
I should feel conscious that life, even more than 
death, would be unprofitable when a foreign nation 
held my country in subjection. 

" Reviewing the conduct of France to other 
countries, could we expect better towards us ? 
No ! Let not then any man attaint my memory 
by believing that I could have hoped to give 
freedom to my country by betraying the sacred 
cause of liberty, and committing it to the power 
of her most determined foe. Had I done so I had 
not deserved to live — and dying with such a 
weight upon my character, I had merited the 
honest execration of that country which gave me 
birth, and to which I would give freedom. What 
has been the conduct of the French towards other 


countries? They promised them liberty, and 
when they got them into their power, they en- 
slaved them. What has been their conduct to- 
wards Switzerland, where it has been stated that I 
had been ? Had the people there been desirous 
of French assistance, and been deceived by that 
power, I would have sided with the people — I 
would have stood between them and the French, 
whose aid they called in, and to the utmost of my 
ability I would have protected them from every 
attempt at subjugation. I would in such a case 
have fought against the French, and in the dignity 
of freedom I would have expired on the threshold 
of that country, and they should have entered it 
only by passing over my lifeless corpse. Is it then 
to be supposed that I would be slow in making the 
same sacrifices for my native land ? Am I, who 
lived but to be of service to my country, and who 
would subject myself to the bondage of the grave 
to give her freedom and independence — am I to 
be loaded with the foul and grievous calumny of 
being an emissary of French tyranny and French 
despotism? My lords, it may be part of the 
system of angry justice to bow a man's mind by 
humiliation to meet the ignominy of the scaffold ; 
but worse to me than the scaffold's shame or the 
scaffold's terrors would be the imputation of hav- 
ing been the agent of the despotism and ambition 
of France ; and whilst I have breath I will call 
upon my countrymen not to believe me guilty of 
so foul a crime against their liberties and against 



their happiness. I would do with the people of 
Ireland as I would have done with the people of 
Switzerland, could I be called upon again to act 
in their behalf. My object and that of the rest of 
the Provisional Government, was to effect a total 
separation between Great Britain and Ireland — to 
make Ireland totally independent of Great Britain, 
but not to let her become a dependent of France." 

Here Emmet was interrupted by Lord Norbury. 

" When my spirit shall have joined those bands 
of martyred heroes who have shed their blood on 
the scaffold and in the field in defence of their 
country, this is my hope, that my memory and 
name may serve to animate those who survive me. 

"While the destruction of that Government 
which upholds its dominion by impiety against the 
Most High, which displays its power over man as 
over the beasts of the field, which sets man upon 
his brother, and lifts his hands in religion's name 
against the throat of his fellow who believes a 
little more or less than the Government standard, 
which reigns amidst the cries of the widows and 
orphans it has made " 

Here Lord Norbury again interrupted the 
prisoner, who, however, proceeded with a state- 
ment of his objects and hopes, until he was again 
interrupted, when he said : 

" What I have spoken was not intended for 
your lordships, whose situation I commiserate 
rather than envy ; my expressions were for my 
countrymen. If there be a true Irishman pre- 


sent, let my last words cheer him in the hour of 

Lord Norbury interrupted again at this point 
Emmet went on : 

" I have always understood it to be the duty of 
a judge, when a prisoner has been convicted, to 
pronounce the sentence of the law. I have also 
understood that judges sometimes think it their 
duty to hear with patience and to speak with 
humanity — to exhort the victim of the laws, and 
to offer with tender benignity his opinions of the 
motives by which he was actuated in the crime of 
which he was adjudged guilty. That a judge has 
thought it his duty so to have done I have no 
doubt ; but where is the boasted freedom of your 
institution — where is the vaunted impartiality, 
clemency, and mildness of your courts of justice — if 
an unfortunate prisoner whom your policy, and not 
justice, is about to deliver into the hands of the 
executioner, is not suffered to explain his motives 
sincerely and truly, and to vindicate the principles 
by which he was actuated ? 

" My lords, it may be a part of the system of 
angry justice to bow a man's mind by humiliation 
to the purposed ignominy of the scaffold ; but 
worse to me than the purposed shame of the 
scaffold's terrors would be the tame endurance of 
such foul and unfounded imputations as have been 
laid against me in this court. You, my lord, are a 
judge — I am the supposed culprit. I am a man — 
you are a man also. By a revolution of power we 



might change places, though we never could 
change characters. If I stand at this bar, and 
dare not vindicate my character, how dare you 
calumniate it ? Does the sentence of death which 
your unhallowed policy inflicts on my body con- 
demn my tongue to silence, and my reputation 
to reproach? Your executioner may abridge 
the period of my existence, but while I exist I 
shall not forbear to vindicate my character and 
motives from your aspersions; and as a man to 
whom fame is dearer than life, I will make the last 
use of that life in doing justice to that reputation 
which is to live after me, and which is the only 
legacy I can leave to those I honour and love, and 
for whom I am proud to perish. As men, my 
lords, we must appear on the great day at one 
common tribunal, and it will then remain for the 
Searcher of all hearts to show a collective universe, 
who was engaged in the most virtuous actions, or 
actuated by the purest motives — my country's 
oppressors or " 

Emmet was again interrupted here and told to 
listen to his sentence : 

"My lords," he exclaimed, "will a dying man 
be denied the legal privilege of exculpating him- 
self in the eyes of the community from a reproach 
thrown upon him during his trial, by charging him 
with ambition, and attempting to cast away, for a 
paltry consideration, the liberties of his country. 
Why then insult me, or rather why insult justice, 
in demanding of me, why sentence of death should 



not be pronounced against me? I know, my 
lords, that the form prescribes that you should put 
the question; the form also confers a right of 
answering. This, no doubt, may be dispensed 
with, and so might the whole ceremony of this 
trial, since sentence was already pronounced at 
the Castle before your jury was impannelled. Your 
lordships are but the priests of the oracle, and I 
submit, but I insist upon the whole of the forms." 

Here Emmet paused, and was desired by the 
court to proceed : 

" I have been charged with that importance in 
the efforts to emancipate my country as to be 
considered the keystone of the combination of 
Irishmen, or, as it has been expressed, 'the life 
and blood of the conspiracy/ You do me honour 
overmuch ; you have given to the subaltern all the 
credit of his superior. There are men concerned 
in this conspiracy, who are not only superior to 
me, but even to your own conceptions of yourself, 
my lord ; men, before the splendour of whose 
genius and virtues I should bow with respectful 
deference, and who would not deign to call you 
friend, who would not disgrace themselves by 
shaking your blood-stained hand." 

Here Lord Norbury again interrupted. 

"What, my lord, shall you tell me on my 
passage to the scaffold — which that tyranny of 
which you are only the intermediate minister 
has erected for my death — that I am accountable 
for all the blood that has and will be shed in this 



struggle against the oppressor ? Shall you tell me 
this — and must I be so very a slave as not to repel 

" I do not fear to approach the Omnipotent Judge 
to answer for the conduct of my short life ; and 
am I to stand appalled here before a mere rem- 
nant of humanity ? Let no man dare, when I am 
dead, to charge me with dishonour; let no man 
attaint my memory by believing that I could have 
engaged in any cause but of my country's liberty 
and independence. The proclamation of the 
Provisional Government speaks my views — no 
inference can be tortured from it to countenance 
barbarity or debasement. I would not have sub- 
mitted to a foreign oppression for the same reason 
that I would have resisted tyranny at home." 

Lord Norbury interposed at this point to the 
following effect : 

"Mr. Emmet, you have been called upon to 
show cause, if any you have, why the judgment 
of the law should not be enforced against you. 
Instead of showing anything in point of law why 
judgment should not pass, you have proceeded in 
a manner the most unbecoming a person in your 
situation ; you have avowed and endeavoured to 
vindicate principles totally subversive of the 
Government — totally subversive of the tranquillity, 
well-being, and happiness of that country which 
gave you birth, — and you have broached treason 
the most abominable. 

" You, sir, had the honour to be a gentleman by 


birth, and your father filled a respectable situation 
under the Government. You had an eldest brother 
whom death snatched away, and who when living 
was one of the greatest ornaments of the bar. 
The laws of his country were the study of his 
youth, and the study of his maturer life was to 
cultivate and support them. He left you a proud 
example to follow, and if he had lived, he would 
have given your talents the same virtuous direc- 
tion as his own, and have taught you to admire 
and preserve that constitution for the destruction of 
which you have conspired with the most profligate 
and abandoned, and associated yourself with host- 
lers, bakers, butchers, and such persons, whom you 
invited to council when you created your Pro- 
visional Government." 

"If the spirits of the illustrious dead," replied 
Emmet, "participate in the concerns of those 
who were dear to them in this transitory scene — 
dear shade of my venerated father, look down on 
your suffering son, and see has he for one moment 
deviated from those moral and patriotic principles 
which you so early instilled into his youthful 
mind, and for which he has now to offer up his 

"My lord, you are impatient for the sacrifice. 
The blood which you seek is not congealed by the 
artificial terrors which surround your victim ; it 
circulates warmly and unruffled through its chan- 
nels, and in a little time it will cry to heaven. Be 
yet patient ; I have but a few words more to say 


— my ministry is now ended. I am going to my 
cold and silent grave ; my lamp of life is nearly 
extinguished ; I have parted with everything that 
was dear to me in this life for my country's cause, 
and abandoned another idol I adored in my heart 
— the object of my affections. My race is run — 
the grave opens to receive me, and I sink into its 
bosom. I am ready to die — I have not been 
allowed to vindicate my character. I have but 
one request to ask at my departure from this 
world — it is the charity of its silence. Let no 
man write my epitaph ; for as no man who knows 
my motives dares now vindicate them, let not 
prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them 
rest in obscurity and peace ; let my memory be 
left in oblivion, and my tomb remain uninscribed, 
until other times and other men can do justice to 
my character. When my country takes her place 
among the nations of the earth, then, and not till 
then, let my epitaph be written. I have done." 

After this speech, which caused a deep im- 
pression on all, Lord Norbury immediately pro- 
nounced the death sentence, and displayed more 
emotion in his address than he had ever been 
known to show. It was half-past ten o'clock at 
night when Emmet was removed from the dock, 
his execution being ordered for the next day. 

There were passages in his speech not fully 
reported which referred to the animus shown by 
Plunket; and one who was present, and who after- 


wards became a judge, thus describes Emmet's 
manner in delivering his speech : 

" Whenever he referred to the charges brought 
against him by Plunket, he generally used the 
words, i the honourable gentleman ' said so-and- 
so; and then enforcing his argument against his 
accusers, his hand was stretched forward, and the 
two forefingers of the right hand were slowly laid 
on the open palm of the other, and alternately 
were raised or lowered as he proceeded." 

" He is described," says Madden, " as moving 
about in the dock, as he warmed in his address, 
with rapid but not ungraceful motions; now in front 
of the railing before the bench, then retiring, as if 
his body as well as his mind were swelling beyond 
the measure of their chains. His action was not 
confined to his hands ; he seemed to have acquired 
a swaying motion of the body when he spoke in 
public, which was peculiar to him, but there was no 
affectation in it." 

In concluding this chapter, it may be worth 
mentioning, especially as it has never been placed 
on record before, that in proof of the extempore 
character of Emmet's speech (if any proof is 
necessary), I have been informed by a member of 
the O'Grady family that the phrase used by Emmet, 
"My lamp of life is nearly extinguished," was 
suggested to him by the fact that one of the oil 
lamps of the court began to flicker, and after a few 
moments, went out. 



At half-past ten o'clock on the night of the trial, 
Emmet was taken from the Court-house in Green 
Street to Newgate Prison, and there loaded 
heavily w T ith irons. Instead of being allowed to 
pass in peace the few hours left to him, he was re- 
moved after midnight, on the pretence of a possible 
rescue, to Kilmainham, where he remained till his 
execution. On the following morning, at ten 
o'clock, he was visited by his " counsel," the 
perfidious M'Nally, who found him with the Rev. 
Dr. Gamble, the Newgate chaplain, reading the 
service of the Church of England. One of his 
first inquiries was after his mother, who, he knew, 
was in declining health. He did not know that 
she had died several days previously. M'Nally 
hesitated to answer, and Emmet repeated the 
question. M'Nally then said, "I know, Robert, 
you would like to see your mother;" to which 
Emmet fervently replied, "Oh! what would I not 
give to see her !" M'Nally, pointing upwards, then 
said, dramatically, 14 Then Robert, you will see her 
this day I" and then explained to Emmet that his 
mother was dead Emmet, after a moment, said 
" It is better so." 



Before being led out to execution, he confided 
two letters to Dr. Trevor, in whose honour, with 
his usual trustfulness, he seems to have believed. 
One of these was to his brother, detailing his plans 
and describing their failure, the other was ad- 
dressed to the Chief Secretary. Both have been 
reprinted above. Dr. Trevor promised to transmit 
the letters safely, and it has been seen how he 
kept his word with regard to the letter to Thomas 
Addis Emmet. 

Dr. Trevor, it is said, embraced him when, at 
half-past one o'clock, he was taken to the place of 
execution, which was at the end of Bridgefoot 
Street in Thomas Street, and nearly opposite St. 
Catherine's Church. He was placed in a carriage 
with two clergymen, the Rev. Dr. Gamble, and a 
Rev. Dr. Grant, and, preceded and followed by a 
strong cavalry and infantry guard, the melancholy 
procession moved slowly along. Emmets de- 
meanour was, to use the words of W. H. Curran, 
one of "unostentatious fortitude." The London 
Chronicle of September 24th-27th, describes his 
manner in a somewhat hostile spirit : " In short, 
he behaved without the least symptoms of fear, 
and with all the effrontery and nonchalance which 
so much distinguished his conduct on his trial 
yesterday. He seemed to scoff at the dreadful 
circumstances attendant on him ; at the same time 
with all the coolness and complacency that can be 
possibly imagined — though utterly unlike the 
calmness of Christian fortitude. Even as it was, I 




never saw a man die like him ; and God forbid I 
should see many with his principles.'' 

When assisted to alight from the carriage, his 
hands being tied, he mounted the scaffold with 
great firmness, and said to the assembled crowd, 
"My friends, I die in peace and with sentiments 
of universal love and kindness towards all men." 
He shook hands with several people on the 
scaffold, gave his watch to the hangman, coolly 
removed his stock, and helped to fix the rope 
round his neck. He was then placed on the plank 
underneath the beam, and the cap was put over 
his face, but he partly removed it to speak a few 
words to the executioner. A moment or two 
afterwards, the plank was tilted up, and without 
any sign of a struggle, Emmet was dead. The 
body was shortly afterwards laid across a table on 
the scaffold, and the head was struck off, and held 
up before the crowd with the usual formula, " This 
is the head of a traitor." One of the spectators 
informed Madden that he noticed there was no 
distortion of the features, but was struck with their 
" extraordinary pallor." 

The Mr. John Fisher already quoted in a 
previous chapter gave Madden the following ac- 
count of the scene: " I saw poor Emmet executed, 
and immediately before his execution, saw him 
put his hand in his pocket, and pull out some 
silver and some half-pence, which he handed to 
the executioner, Galvin. Then I saw him take off 
his cravat with his own hands, hand it to the 


executioner, and noticed him in the act of ad- 
dressing Galvin some two or three words. The 
execution took place at the corner of the lane at 
St. Catherine's Church in Thomas Street, and he 
died without a struggle. He was immediately 
beheaded upon a table lying on the temporary 
scaffold. The table was then brought down to the 
Market-house, opposite John Street, and left there 
against the wall, exposed to public view for about 
two days." 

In the "Life of Grattan" there is an interesting 
incident of Emmet's last moments recorded. " He 
was as cool and collected before his death," says 
the younger Grattan, " as if nothing was to hap- 
pen. Peter Burrowes saw him on his way, and 
related a circumstance that occurred as he was 
going to execution. He had a paper that he 
wished to be brought to Miss Curran, to whom he 
was strongly attached ; he watched his oppor- 
tunity, and in passing one of the streets he caught 
a friendly eye in the crowd, and making a sign to 
the person, got him near, and then he dropped a 
paper; this was observed by others, and the 
person who took it up was stopped ; the paper 
was taken from him and brought to the Castle. 
Mr. Burrowes and Charles Bushe saw it, and said 
it was a very affecting letter." 

W. H. Curran also states that when he was 
taken to prison after his arrest, he gave the gaoler 
all the money he possessed, and entreated him 
to deliver a letter which he had written to Miss 


Curran. The gaoler, however, handed the letter 
to the authorities, and when Emmet discovered 
this, he immediately notified the Government that 
if the letter was not delivered he would exercise 
his right of addressing the people at his trial and 
execution, which he was aware was not desired, 
but that, on the other hand, should the letter be 
handed to Miss Curran, he would go to his death 
without saying a word. Presumably the letter 
was never delivered. 

There is a story or tradition current that on the 
morning of the execution a coach was stationed a 
little way from the gaol, and near the entrance of 
the Royal Hospital, and in it was observed a lady 
with her face buried in a handkerchief. When 
Emmet passed on his way to execution, he was 
seen to look intently at this coach, and to wave his 
hand several times till he was out of sight. The 
lady in the coach stood up, waved her handker- 
chief in reply, and then sank back in her seat. 
She was supposed to be Sarah Curran. 

Anne Devlin relates that when she was removed 
to the Castle from Kilmainham on the day after 
the execution, she was taken by way of Thomas 
Street, and saw the scaffold still standing with the 
blood visible on its boards. Many people had 
dipped their handkerchiefs in it, and carried them 
away as mementoes (gruesome ones enough, it 
must be admitted). 

The body of Emmet was removed to the gaol 
at Kilmainham after the execution, and it was 


directed that unless claimed immediately by the 
relatives of Emmet, it should be buried in Bully's 
Acre, otherwise the Hospital Fields, close by. 
The gaoler, Dunn, stated that he kept the body 
for several hours in the expectation that it would 
be claimed, but as Emmet's only surviving friends 
were nearly all in gaol or were afraid to make 
known their interest in him, no one appeared, and 
the remains were interred "near the right hand 
corner of the burying ground, next the avenue of 
the Royal Hospital, and close to the wall." 

After a short lapse of time, the body was claimed 
by Dr. Gamble and exhumed, and buried with 
great secrecy in Dublin, but where has always 
remained, and will probably continue to remain, a 
mystery. Emmet's brother-in-law, John Patten, 
then in gaol, believed that the body was buried in 
St. Michan's Church. He had seen the man who 
removed the body, and this was his recollection 
after many years. Leonard, Dr. Emmet's old 
gardener, held the same view ; and stated that he 
was told that the large uninscribed stone in the 
churchyard was placed over the grave. Mr. 
Patten, however, thought that Emmet's body was 
buried in the vaults of the church, and not in the 
churchyard. The Rev. Dr. Gamble, a friend of 
the Emmet family, was one of the curates of St. 
Michan's at this time, which may be said to 
support the view that Emmet was buried in his 
churchyard. On the other hand, Emmet's parents 
were buried in St. Peter's, Aungier Street, and 


that Church would, one would think, be naturally 
the most likely place of burial. There is no entry 
in the register of either church to show that he was 
buried there. 

Dr. Madden, towards the close of his life, from 
information he received, believed Emmet to have 
been buried in the Protestant churchyard of 
Glasnevin, but the matter has never been cleared 
up. Dr. Emmet suggests that the opening of the 
family vault in St. Peter's might yield a clue, as it 
is possible the body might have been interred 

Several debates took place in Parliament in 
August and December on the subject of Emmet's 
rebellion. Lord Temple thought that the ministers 
ought to be impeached, if, as appeared to be the 
case, the Government were unaware of the pre- 
parations for the rising. If they did know of 
them, he wished to ask why the rebels were 
allowed to be for one hour in arms. Other mem- 
bers doubted whether the Government could have 
known anything about it, as otherwise the Lord 
Lieutenant would not have left town that night, 
and moreover, the Lord Mayor and Commander- 
in-Chief would have been informed. 

The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied that 
"all the necessary officers" were informed, and 
said that if the Viceroy had not gone to his 
country house that night, Dublin might have 
become alarmed ! 

In March, 1804, another debate took place on 


the same subject, when Sir John Wrottlesley 
moved for a committee of inquiry into the conduct 
of the authorities at the time. He gave many 
examples of their remissness ; and other members 
joined in the attack. Lord Castlereagh practically 
admitted knowledge of the conspiracy on the 
part of the Government, but argued that it was 
necessary to let things come to a head so that, as 
Windham said, " the cure might be radical." He 
stated that there were only about two or three 
thousand pikes in the Thomas Street depot, but 
Lord de Blaquiere, who had been one of the 
officers engaged in the search, declared that there 
were not less than twelve thousand. It is difficult 
to resist the feeling that the Lord Lieutenant and 
the Commander-in-Chief were deliberately kept 
ignorant of the affair, and that Dr. Emmet's 
suggestion, based on Sir Bernard Burke's state- 
ment, is the true solution of the mystery. 

It only remains to speak of the fate of Sarah 
Curran, the story of whose subsequent career is 
very sad reading. Curran's son says that it was 
only when a search was made at his father's house 
after Emmet's arrest, that Curran discovered the 
attachment between his daughter and the insur- 
gent leader. This seems difficult to believe, when 
one remembers the close observation kept upon 
Emmet by Leonard M'Nally, who would naturally, 
one would think, have warned his friend of the 

W. H. Curran says : " This is not the place to 


dwell upon the agony which such a discovery 
occasioned to the private feelings of the father. 
-It was not the private calamity alone which he 
had to deplore — it came embittered by other 
circumstances which, for the moment, gave his sensi- 
bility an intenser shock." There is, however, this 
amount of corroboration of the younger Curran's 
statement — that from this period onwards, Curran, 
who could not have been at any time described as 
an indulgent father, treated his unhappy daughter 
with all the rigour of a remorseless persecutor. 
Miss Curran's feelings on hearing of her lover's 
arrest, and of the discovery of her correspondence 
with him, as evidenced by the visitation of her 
father's house, may be guaged from the reply to 
Major Sirr's report to the Chief Secretary (which 
does not appear to exist). Mr. Wickham wrote : 

" Dear Sir, — I lament exceedingly the circum- 
stance of Mr. Curran's absence from his country 
house on your arrival, and am much distressed at 
hearing of the state of Miss Sarah Curran's mind, 
as described in your letter ; in every case I think 
you had better come away, and leave Miss Sarah 
Curran to the care of her sisters. — I am, dear Sir, 
etc., "W. Wickham." 

So harsh was Curran's treatment of his daughter 
that she was obliged to leave, if not actually 
expelled from her father's house, and she sought 
the protection of an old friend of her family, a Mr. 
Penrose, of Woodhill, Glanmire Road, near Cork. 


Here she was kindly treated and remained for 
some time. After her grief for Emmet's death 
had somewhat subsided, she went to a fancy dress 
ball in Cork, and here her future husband, Captain 
Sturgeon, first met her. He fell deeply in love 
with her, and proposed to her, but she refused him. 
She could not forget Emmet, for whose death she 
considered herself partly responsible, as she often 
declared that she might easily have escaped to 
America with him in the interval between the 
insurrection and his arrest. A writer in The 
Literary Souvenir for 1831, who evidently knew 
her well, gives some interesting particulars about 
her, and animadverts in strong terms upon J. P. 
Curran's cruel treatment of his daughter. 

"When I first saw Sarah Curran," says the 
writer, " she was in her twelfth year, and was even 
then remarkable for a pensive character of counte- 
nance, which she never afterwards lost. A 
favourite sister, to the best of my recollection a 
twin, died when she was eight years old, and was 
buried under a large tree on the lawn of 'the 
Priory ' (Mr. Curran's seat near Dublin), directly 
opposite to the window of their nursery. Under 
its shade they had often sat together, pulled the 
first primroses, at its root, and watched in its 
leaves the earliest verdure of the spring. Many 
an hour, for many a year, did the sorrowful survivor 
take her silent stand at the melancholy window, 
gazing on the well known spot, which constituted 
all her little world of joys and sorrows. To 


I8 7 

this circumstance she attributed the tendency to 
melancholy which formed so marked a feature of 
her character through life." 

The writer states that Emmet was first in- 
troduced to her by her brother (probably Richard), 
and that it was only after this introduction that 
he became a frequent visitor at Curran's house. 
It is also stated that among Emmet's papers 
was found a letter strongly dissuading him from 
attempting an insurrection, and another giving as 
her reason for not yielding to his entreaties that 
she should go away with him to America, her 
sense of duty towards her family. The last letter 
was written while he was in concealment and 
when preparations were being made for his escape 
to America. She is said to have received a letter 
from Emmet declaring that as she would not leave 
Ireland with him, he was determined to stay and 
meet his fate. After his execution, the writer 
goes on, she lost her reason for a time, and 
became seriously ill, during which period her 
father refused to see her or to acknowledge her in 
any way. 

The writer gives particulars of Curran's treat- 
ment of his daughter such as could only proceed 
from a heart of flint, but they need not be re- 
peated here. Even after her death, Curran refused 
her last request to be buried beside her sister 
in 'The Priory' grounds. Lord Cloncurry re- 
monstrated with him, but in vain. 

After repeated solicitations from Captain Stur- 


geon, whose kindness and consideration towards 
her had already made some impression upon her, 
she at length consented to marry him, but she 
candidly told him that she could not give him all 
the love he might expect, as she could never 
forget her first lover. 

At this time she was gradually declining in 
health. Captain Sturgeon thoroughly respected 
her feelings, and on the 24th of November, 1805, 
she was married to him. He was the nephew of 
the Marquess of Rockingham, and had a brave 
and honourable record in the army. All accounts 
agree in praising his high qualities both as a 
soldier and as a gentleman. Soon after the mar- 
riage he was ordered to Sicily, and it was thought 
his wife would probably benefit by the change of 
climate, but alas, it was too late. In 1808 they 
returned from Sicily in a crowded transport, and 
in very bad weather. On board Mrs. Sturgeon 
gave birth to a boy, who diecji soon after, and her 
own death followed his very speedily. It is thus 
noticed in The Gentleman's Magazine for 1808: 

"May 5th, 1808, at Hythe, in Kent, of a rapid 
decline, aged 26, Sarah, wife of Captain Henry 
Sturgeon, youngest daughter of the Right Hon. 
J. P. Curran, Master of the Rolls in Ireland." 

She was buried at Newmarket, Co. Cork, where 
her father's family had been buried for genera- 
tions. Her husband was killed in 18 14 in the 
Peninsular War. Poor Sarah Curran's personal 


appearance is thus described by the writer in The 
Literary Souvenir: 

" In person she was about the ordinary size; her 
hair and eyes black. Her complexion was fairer 
than is usual with black hair, and was a little 
freckled. Her eyes were large, soft, and brilliant, 
and capable of the greatest variety of expression. 
Her aspect in general indicated reflection, and 
pensive abstraction from the scene around her. 
Her wit was keen and playful, but chastened ; al- 
though no one had a keener perception of humour 
or ridicule. Her musical talents were of the first 
order; she sang with exquisite taste. I think I 
never heard so harmonious a voice." 

In the last letter she ever wrote, she gives an 
account of her sufferings, and thus speaks of her 
husband : " In England you know how I am 
situated — not one I know intimately. To make 
up for this, my beloved husband is everything 
to me; his conduct throughout all my troubles 
surpasses all praise." In a beautiful and well 
known song by Moore, Sarah Curran's memory is 
immortally preserved, and her ill-fated lover's 
name, even long after the records of his life have 
perished, will remain enshrined in the same song 
and in the others consecrated to his memory by 
Moore, to whose credit it must be said that he 
never forgot his early friend or allowed his fame 
to be slighted. 

Had Emmet's attempt at insurrection, which 
now seems such a lamentable fiasco, been success- 


ful, he would have ranked among the greatest 
figures of his age. But he was unsuccessful, and 
has to bear the obloquy and contempt nearly 
always attendant upon failure. 

Moore must have been thinking of him when he 
introduced these lines, which fittingly close this 
narrative, into his "Lalla Rookh:" 

" Rebellion, foul dishonouring word, 

Whose wrongful blight so oft has stain'd 
The holiest cause that tongue or sword 

Of mortal ever lost or gained. 
How many a spirit, born to bless, 

Hath sunk beneath that withering name, 
Whom but a day's, an hour's success, 

Had wafted to eternal fame ? 
As exhalations, when they burst 
From the warm earth, if chill'd at first, 
If check'd in soaring from the plain, 
Darken to fogs and sink again — 
But, if they more triumphant spread 
Their wings above the mountain-head, 
Become enthroned in upper air, 
And turn to sun-bright glories there !" 



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